triple 9

The newest American crime thriller and cop drama to hit theaters, “Triple 9”, is a movie that packs an attractive star studded cast, features intense action and has most of the right elements to make it at least a mediocre genre piece, but it also presents a story that is unfocused and sometimes unclear with feeling that it's incomplete or missing something.

Starring Casey Affleck, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Anthony Mackie, Aaron Paul, Norman Reedus, Woody Harrelson, Kate Winslet, Clifton Collins, Jr., Michael K. Williams, Luis Da Silva, Teresa Palmer and Gal Gadot, this crime drama follows a group of criminals, made up of dirty cops and ex special forces, who get involved with the Russian Mafia and are forced to complete a very difficult heist. From director, John Hillcoat (“Lawless”, “The Road”), and a script that was part of 2010’s Black List scripts (most liked scripts not yet produced), this film may satisfy some audiences while leaving others disappointed.

After a small but efficient team successfully pulls off a bank heist in Atlanta, their employer in the Russian Mafia orders them to do another job before they can get paid. With the next job being nearly impossible to safely pull off without getting caught or killed, the group comes up with a plan to kill a police officer, which will result in a Code 999 radio call that will attract nearly every on duty cop in the area, leaving them a window to pull off a high profile robbery.

When I first saw previews for this film, I couldn’t help but get excited about the strong cast of solid actors involved, and likewise it’s been a while since a decent cop thriller was released. I had high hopes for this film, but after my viewing, I was left wondering what had gone wrong. Multiple proven actors, thrilling action, and the kind of story that involves dirty cops, bank heists, the Russian Mafia and more. It should’ve been enough, but unfortunately for me, it doesn’t quite cut it.

For all the actors involved, I felt like they were either underutilized or misused in all the wrong ways. Winslet, for example, plays a mafia boss with a Russian accent, and while I applaud the diversity of an actor, I’m not sold that this was the best casting choice. From a narrative standpoint, I’m not sure whether the plot is just not clear enough, told in all the wrong ways or simply doesn’t live up to the film’s positive qualities, but there is no doubt that its lacking something.

I saw this film with a friend who actually enjoyed the experience, and I’ve seen a handful of critics who have praised this film as well. Most films that get this far must have some form of entertainment value and gone through multiple viewers before getting the green light, and while this one may not be for me, there’s clearly some sort of audience out there that can appreciate it.

While the plot may be lacking at times, others have commended the film for its cast, tone/style, and the thrilling, gritty and dangerous world that has been created. It’s hard to disagree there. There’s clearly potential in this film, and it’s a world and urban setting that I’d like to see more of. But for multiple reasons, it just feels like this particular film is missing a key component and falls short in more ways than one.

This film has more than enough quality actors for multiple films, perhaps making it too crowded, and does its job when it comes to adrenaline rush type action, but the bottom line for me is that it lacks substance and a cohesive story, which keeps it from becoming a potentially much better film. I can see how in theory or on paper while being developed, that this looked like a strong action drama, but ultimately it turned out to be a borderline less than average genre film. My hope is that this film does find its audience and perhaps someday I can view it again and have a different opinion.

“Triple 9” is rated R for strong violence and language throughout, drug use and some nudity. Running tike is 1 hour and 55 minutes.

2 out of 5 stars.

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