Review: Triple 9 Is Disjointed And Wastes Its Impressive Cast
Title: Triple 9
Director: John Hillcoat
Screenwriter: Matt Cook
Principal Cast: Casey Affleck, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Anthony Mackie, Kate Winslet, Aaron Paul, Woody Harrelson, and Clifton Collins Jr.
Summary: A gang of criminals and corrupt cops plan the murder of a police officer in order to pull off their biggest heist yet across town.
I had a moment when I walked into Triple 9 that I was glad that I didn’t know anything about it. I sat down next to a fellow critic and said “Hey, how are you? What is this movie about?” It sounds like I made the right choice in deciding not to look at any of the trailers because the trailers give away a decent amount of the movie. I looked at IMDB right before the movie started and was surprised at the calibre of the cast they managed to get for this movie. If being a critic has taught me anything, however, it’s that you can have a cast of the best actors in the world but if you don’t have a decent script or director then all the talent in the world won’t make any difference.
Triple 9 takes its impressive cast and doesn’t do anything with them as they all seem to be coming in from different movies that causes huge tonal shifts.
On the poster for Triple 9 it says that not everything is black and white which is laughable considering the final product. Perhaps the original intent was to show that sometimes people can be good and bad but that seems to have been lost in the script somewhere. The villains, including Kate Winslet, of the movie are so cartoonishly over the top and evil that nuance doesn’t appear to be in the cards. They don’t clash with the super serious cop drama that Anthony Mackie and Chiwetel Ejiofor are in. Aaron Paul and Norman Reedus have stumbled in from their respective television shows with no changes to either of them. Meanwhile Woody Harrelson seems like he’s trying to channel Bad Lieutenant but doesn’t quite get there. All of this is bookended by what could almost be a buddy cop movie and family drama with Casey Affleck. None of these pieces fit together and the script doesn’t make any attempt to.
The entire production reeks of lack of leadership and direction. I know that director John Hillcoat can make a good movie but it feels like there wasn’t anyone there to tell these great actors what kind of movie they are supposed to be in. It makes the movie very frustrating to watch because you know all of these actors and actresses are extremely talented and the movie does nothing with them. The fact that the script by Matt Cook bounces between being predictable, yet still making absolutely no sense, is just as irritating. There is a nucleus of a good idea but everything’s so muddled that no matter how many great actors they throw at it Triple 9 just can’t recover.
All of this adds up to a movie that isn’t exactly bad, but more annoying, to watch. It runs at just under two hours and feels that long as people double cross and try to shoot each other. There are various subplots that just go nowhere, and by the time the end comes along you aren’t invested as to whether or not any of these men are going to survive. That also comes down to Casey Affleck being the closest to likable out of this entire bunch. The movie tries to bring in the sympathy card for one of the characters but it falls completely flat. Everyone else is some variation of a terrible person to psychotic. As soon as you realize there isn’t anyone worth rooting for, you begin to check out for long portions of the movie.
Triple 9 is one of those movies that looks really good on paper, but at the end of the day weak direction brought on by an incoherent script and disjointed performances means that while the pieces are all here they do not fit together. It’s not a bad film, but when you realize how much potential was wasted here you will find yourself more angry at that than the movie itself.