triple9The evil that men do, a violence that may even be inflicted upon their loved ones and friends, runs through much of director John Hillcoat’s work (The Proposition, The Road, Lawless), and he explores similar terrain in his Atlanta, Georgia based action thriller Triple 9.

The film’s moniker refers to the police code of “officer down,” and a group of corrupt cops and ex-military contractors (Chiwetel Ejiofor, Anthony Mackie, Clifton Collins Jr., Norman Reedus, Aaron Paul) will attempt to pull off a “triple 9” to help pull off an ambitious heist. Principled cop Chris Allen (Casey Affleck) is the intended victim, and after he’s shot the squad cars will drive to his location, thus giving the crooks free reign to commit robbery on another side of town. Woody Harrelson, who worked with Affleck in Out of the Furnace, plays Chris’ uncle, a detective who is one step ahead of the game.

Pulling the strings is Irina Vaslov (Kate Winslet), an Israeli-Russian mob wife who strong arms Michael’s (Chiwetel Ejiofor) crew into this operation, and although they have committed various heights and criminal activities for her organization, this mission’s booty will help free her husband from jail. Gal Gadot co-stars as Irina’s sister Elena, who’s also the ex-lover of Michael and mother to his son. As tragedy befalls his friends and danger knocks on his son’s doorstep, Michael is pressured into Irina’s demands, setting off a destructive chain of events.

Triple 9’s opening moments, which shows the crew robbing a bank and engaging in a highway shootout, contains the viscerally charged action that’s a Hillcoat trademark, and it favorably brings back memorably of Michael Mann’s top notch feature Heat. And like Heat, the movie attempts to fully flesh out the lives of several characters, thus housing all those bullets and gunplay in a seemingly expansive universe.

The film’s stellar ensemble, coupled with several immersive action scenes, are the main reasons to watch Triple 9. Winslet, in a deliciously role, is a surprisingly intimidating villain and Affleck, recently seen in The Finest Hours, is again on point as a grace under pressure lawman. However, Triple 9’s storyline is spread too thin, and by the film’s closing credits most of these characters will simply fade into the distance. Hillcoat shouldn’t be faulted for his ambition, but attempting to stuff several main characters into this eventually over baked story just doesn’t cut it.

If you love action movies and want to see some of cinema’s top actors strut their stuff, then Triple 9 is worth a look, even if you won’t be coming back for seconds.

For a further discussion on Triple 9, check out the latest episode of the movie review podcast CinemAddicts.

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Posted By: Greg Srisavasdi