When thinking about the great heist and robbery films, I think of titles such as ‘Heat’, ‘The Usual Suspects’ and ‘Snatch’; after seeing John Hillcoat’s ‘Triple 9’, I’m certain it won’t be heralding such a prestigious list.
The issue isn’t that ‘Triple 9’ was blatantly bad, it was merely a severe case of a greatly missed opportunity.
A director with a fairly decent track record and an overly stacked and talented cast should’ve been the formula for quite a memorable tale. Sadly, upon leaving the cinema, I knew it wasn’t going to be memorable, but rather something I’d quickly forget about.
The plot itself is simple: following their seemingly successful bank robbery, a batch of professional criminals and shady cops are forced by the Russian mob to commit yet another crime, which if they fail, will result in serious, life damaging consequences. However, to their dismay, there’s a new cop in town, a very professional one at that, Chris Allen (played by Casey Affleck), who causes havoc on their plans as he is partnered with one of the dirty cops and is viewed as a roadblock in the path of completing their mission. Oh, and not to forget, Allen is the son of the detective investigating their robbery.
The opening robbery was rushed and sudden, with almost no explanation as to what was going on and why all this chaos was even happening. It was a mashup of so many characters, a number of explosions and cars and trucks tactically hidden in side streets waiting to arrive at the perfect moment, leaving me quite confused. Despite the non-existent exposition which would’ve been beneficial, this robbery is filmed and framed magnificently, with a fatal red-dye explosion almost defeating their getaway. The cinema was pumped up and on an exhilarating high from this well played out scene, paving the way for a just as tense and stirring remainder of the movie, something that just doesn’t come to fruition.
I wanted to save my diatribe until a bit later, and focus on the (scarce few) positives of ‘Triple 9’.
Visit the IMDb page of the movie here, and appreciate the sheer level of class in the cast. The creators and the studio behind ‘Triple 9’ definitely got full marks for their selection of actors, combining proven greats like Woody Harrelson with up-and-coming, yet still remarkable individuals like Chiwitel Ejiofor. Who is going to complain when Kate Winslet and Gal Gadot are in a movie together?
To say the least, the list of redeeming features almost ends there; the residual is a pile of boring and superficial nonsense.
There are times where such nonsense turns into something enjoyable, riveting and even exciting, but that can only be credited to the skilled actors, and it happens ever so seldom. Without them, the effects and the bland story makes for a very long and tedious 2 hour run time.
‘Triple 9’ failed to make me care about the characters, with no concern about their stability or well-being. There were so many characters floating around that there was a sincere dearth of exploration into any one character. Too much happening, too little focus on any individual.
The Jewish henchmen were, for most of the movie, an unnecessary addition, never progressing the story in any way, but only viciously staring down and physically beating mostly anyone they could. Their boss, Irina Vlaslov (played by Kate Winslet) was intimidating and sinister, always in control of the situation. Winslet was suitable for such a role, offering the right amount of grit and brains, but her character was probably more suited to be a Bond villain; she was omnipotent in a world of mere mortals.
Gabe Welch was one of the criminals, and he was played by Aaron Paul, someone you all would recognize as ‘Jesse Pinkman’ from the wildly successful series ‘Breaking Bad’.
I felt like the role of Welch could’ve been played by almost any scrawny actor, but because of his previous work as a stoner and drug-dealer, Aaron Paul was casted. It seemed as though ‘Triple 9’ was five years after all of the altercations and ordeals in ‘Breaking Bad’, and Pinkman had turned into a professional criminal, still struggling with his life, addicted to drugs, and hustling to make some money.
Aaron Paul was just as much of an advertising tool as all the other big name actors were.
With limited screen-time for a number of the high-budgeted cast members and a movie that looks a heap better in the trailer than it really is, the marketing department successfully hit the nail on the head.
For me, a sign that a movie has failed is when I check my phone to see the time remaining of what is usually a disaster of a movie. It took less than an hour for me to do so in the screening of ‘Triple 9’, and this was far from the last time I was rendered to turning on my brightly-lit screen to alleviate my boredom.
The final chapter of the film, in which they, at long last, committed the second heist, was a great let down. By that stage I was chomping at the bit for something grand, large and fantastic, but all we got was a small shootout in an even smaller car-park.
It is a shame how ‘Triple 9’ turned out, with a great amount of potential due to it’s proven director and astounding cast. I was bored watching this movie, and I think you will be, too. Give this one a miss.
My rating: 5/10
“There’s no limit to what desperate men will do when pushed.”