HOLLYWOOD must have been empty while Triple 9 was being filmed on the streets of Atlanta because absolutely everyone is in it. And I mean everyone.
Kate Winslet is channelling scene-stealing old world mob glamour as one half of a Jewish Russian mafia power couple, Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years A Slave) is a hardened career criminal with the scars and brutish presence to prove it and Woody Harrelson is hitting the bottle – and probably the perps too – as an older daddy cop with troubles.
It’s already a recipe for some truly exciting cinema. But add in a large dose of Casey Affleck (Insterstellar) and Anthony Mackie (better known as Falcon in Marvel’s Avengers movies), a dash of The Walking Dead star Norman Reedus and Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul and finally just a pinch of Gal Gadot, soon to be hitting the big time as Wonder Woman, and you’ve got something with the potential to be really special.
Luckily director John Hillcoat (The Road, Lawless) knows exactly how to work with these sublime silver screen ingredients and serves up a tense and clever cops and robbers thriller that never lets up on the action.
In brief, a gang of bent cops and ex-military personnel led by mercenary Michael Atwood (Ejiofor) is running jobs for the Russian cosa nostra. They’ve got Atwood’s kid but are also paying hella cash – admittedly motives are a little confused.
We see the crew pull of a thrilling bank heist in the first half of the film, but there’s another job before they can walk away. The mob want them to steal some files from Homeland Security.
The only way they can think to pull it off? Kill a cop and prompt a 999 call out – which means “officer down” in American law enforcement vernacular – and keep every officer in the city busy with it while they hit them at the heart. Their target for the kill? Hard cop Marcus Belmont’s (Mackie) new partner Chris Allen (Affleck).
Writer Matt Cook gives his men a humanity that stops Triple 9 from falling into two-dimensions. As they plan a murder they begin to wobble on the line between good and evil and how they each cope with this most immoral of actions makes for compelling viewing throughout.
Mackie impresses in a serious role here with Paul also putting in a superb turn. All the while Harrelson, Winslet and Ejiofor make it look effortless. As for Gadot, I can only say I think the good people at DC and Warner Bros have made an excellent choice in their Amazonian princess and I for one can’t wait to see her wielding the Lasso of Truth.
Sure Triple 9 has some plot holes and not everyone’s character is as fleshed out as you might like but crucially it never gets boring and with such a top draw ensemble cast you can never guess which one of them is going to get killed first which helps to keep up the suspense.
My one gripe is that once again endings seem to be director John Hillcoat’s Achilles heel. He disappointed in Lawless and here again leaves us fading to black before we’re ready.
Final word: A thoroughly entertaining cops and robbers action thriller that has a cast too big to miss and luckily doesn’t waste them.
If you liked Triple 9 you should also watch:
- The Departed
- Infernal Affairs