Release Date: February 26, 2016
Director: John Hillcoat
Writer: Matt Cook
Cast: Casey Affleck, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Anthony Mackie, Gal Gadot, Teresa Palmer, Kate Winslet, Norman Reedus, Aaron Paul, Woody Harrelson, Clifton Collins Jr., Michael Kenneth Williams, Susanne Marie Danger, Michelle Ang, Carlos Aviles, Luis Da Silva Jr., E. Roger Mitchell, Georgy Fontanals, Zane Pittman, Dev Kingsley, Natalie Pero, Ian Casselberry, Anthony J. Sacco, William Tokarsky, Jeff Glover
MPAA Rating: R
Runtime: 115 minutes
Production Company: Worldview Entertainment, Anonymous Content, MadRiver Pictures, Open Road Films
Genre: Crime, Thriller
Budget: $28,000,000 (estimated)
When the trailer for Triple 9 first dropped it startled me. Its brutal and cold blooded nature certainly caught my attention. I didn’t know their motivations, but I was interested in what pushed everyone forward. Their blazing guns impressed me, and an added bonus was all the recognizable faces pulling the trigger. To find out the real meaning behind all the mayhem on the streets intrigued me dearly. The environment felt cold and scary. With me not having seen any of director John Hillcoat’s previous work, I didn’t know what to expect. The man has style, and a certain subtlety to his action that I appreciated, but some other elements watered down some of the film’s intense moments. While being entertained initially, the film continued to take its own life, going downhill, attempting to be edgy by containing so much corruption it all becomes meaningless.
It did do a great job towards the beginning of making you feel like the main characters were a team. There was no setup. Just a conversation with each other about what’s to come and the threat they’re faced with. They had a problem, a solution, and the only thing left was execution. I cared about the stakes and wanted those involved to succeed. As the film progressed you finally saw the threat they spoke of, and after the reveal, it ended up being paper thin. Part of this mess that began to unravel was casting Kate Winslet as a Russian. This decision was laughably bad sprinkled with ridiculousness. We’re told about how ruthless her organization is, but are never shown. Then her dressed up henchmen and their trashy accents made it even worse. The casting wasn’t all bad. It’s too many to name, but the main leads did have some entertaining appeal. They were up a creek, and it showed through their acting, but not the story.
The story itself was great, but the delivery was warm on the outside and cold in the middle. It didn’t contain anything energizing except a well shot action scene, with the rest leaving you sleepy and bored waiting for more. That’s where the main problem was stationed. Earlier I mentioned the main cast had a problem and a solution, but the film took forever to actually address the real issue. Instead of focusing on the main goal, other random day to day activities take place that make you start to not care. You even lose respect for the cast, finding out they’re mostly all despicable. If a film is going to stray away from what’s paramount, at least give me something interesting that develops the characters. It does develop the characters, but in a negative way. Now you have a film that strays away from the main point, and then reveals that you can’t root for any of the characters involved. What makes it even worse is another relationship that’s created involves a child, and no matter which side wins the innocent child still loses.
The only thing left to look forward to is how the film looks, specifically the action scenes containing all the gun fire. It’s not unnecessarily loud or all over the place. It’s well organized and extremely easy to follow. They always take place in completely different locations. So each one feels new and fresh. There were a few shots of police procedures that I’ve never encountered before on screen. They weren’t breaking the grounds with their impact, but I was invested and interested in the outcome. There was no hint towards who would live or die, and with such a large cast it could’ve been anyone fighting their last fight. The large cast was another aspect of the film that crippled its quality, instead of taking advantage of all of the talent.
This film had everything going for it. A solid premise, fascinating visions of action, and a cast that’s in the forefront of entertainment today. But the stellar cast was spread too thin to leave anything worthy on screen. With everyone sharing screen time, there was no one to truly care about. When you get invested in one small group, you’re forced to shift your focus to another group too quickly to savor it all in. The majority of this was done towards the middle of the film, not even dealing with the real end game. The action was great and had a real gritty feel to it, as well. Though with every clever turn, another twist came along that wasted the previous actions. There’s no happy ending. No one wins with Triple 9. Not the characters involved or the viewing audience.