Triple 9

Certificate 15, 115 minutes

Director: John Hillcoat

Stars: Kate Winslet, Woody Harrelson, Chiwetel Ejiofor

Triple 9 opens with three men - two ex-private security contractors, Mike Belmont (Chiwetel Ejiofor, The Martian) and Russel Welch (Norman Reedus), and Russel's ex-cop, and ex-drug addict, brother, Gabe (Aaron Paul, A Long Way Down, Need for Speed) in a car talking about an upcoming job that is two weeks away. They decide that, although they could probably do the job by themselves, they could do with a couple more guys that they know. The opening credits have some black and white footage, as well as some colour, about the Russian mafiya, and how much of it is controlled by the Jews (the film gives a bit of an anti-Semitic feel; this may be an accident).

Mike's crew is working in Atlanta, and the next bit is of them robbing a bank, targeting one specific safety deposit box, and talking Spanish to throw suspicion off. The job is carried out mostly very professionally, as the crew know what they are doing, except Gabe decides to take some cash lying around. This cash is specifically intended to be stolen by bank robbers, as there is a dye pack hidden in it. Said dye pack explodes in the getaway vehicle, so that part of the robbery doesn't go quite to plan, and Gabe's actions annoy the other two people they have recruited, Marcus Atwood (Anthony Mackie) and Jorge Rodriguez (Clifton Collins Jr.). These two are not ex-cops; they are actually cops.

When Mike goes to deliver the security box to his boss, Irina Vlaslov (Kate Winslet, Contagion, Divergent, Insurgent), who is running the criminal organisation (and who, despite her rather derogatory comments about her sister's attractiveness, seems to be resorting to some fairly extensive artificial means to maintain her own looks), she refuses to pay for the job, insisting that they carry out another one first. Mike has a son by Irina's sister, Elena (Gal GadotBatman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Fast & Furious 6), so he's sort of family, but whilst Irina cares for her nephew, she doesn't really like his father. Mike isn't happy about doing the second job before they get paid, but Irina needs the material from the second job to help get her husband released from prison. So, in order to convince Mike to do the job, she sort-of kills one of the crew (sort-of, because neither her nor her people are the ones who actually finish him off).

Triple 9Credit: this, Mike agrees to do the job, which requires them to get some material from a Department of Homeland Security facility. Because of where it is being stolen from, the crew is going to need more time to carry out the job successfully, so they need some sort of distraction. Marcus and Rodriguez propose that this be a "Triple 9" - a triple 9 is the radio code given when a cop is killed, so that all the other cops descend on the area in force, leaving them free to rob the DHS facility in peace. Gabe, even though he was kicked off the force, is the least happy with this idea.

Sergeant Detective Jeffrey Allen (Woody Harrelson) has the feeling that something big is going down, and Marcus has been assigned Allen's nephew, Chris (Casey Affleck, ParaNorman), as a new partner. Marcus doesn't really get along with Chris, so he decides that the latter would make an excellent target for the triple 9. After deciding to do the triple 9, no-one really seems to do anything else to advance the plot for what feels like a really long time. There are some scenes with Marcus and Chris that are completely unrelated to the main plot that are perhaps intended to build something up, but this isn't really made clear and fails pretty badly at what it was intended to portray. More thought should have gone into this.

Triple 9 gives the impression that they set out to make a classy and stylish thriller. Unfortunately, quite often when you set out to make a classy and stylish thriller - rather than a good one that's enjoyable to watch - you tend to end up with one that's tedious instead. It's by far better for classy and stylish to come about as a result of being a good film. Overall, it feels like it's trying too hard, rather than just going ahead and doing.

There are a couple of events in the film that give the feeling that they were supposed to be unexpected twists; however, if that was the case then they failed, as they could easily be seen coming in advance. The characters don't really grab you, despite the fact that there are some decent actors here, and often come across as quite stereotypical. It's often hard to make out what Affleck and Harrelson are saying; the former is almost constantly talking around a mouth full of chewing gum, distorting his voice. Quite what the case is with the latter is unclear, as Harrelson seems to be frequently slurring his voice for no good reason, even when he isn't drunk (a cop who seems to drink far too much; now, there's an original idea). Perhaps his rather unflattering moustache is interfering with his voice.

The scenes where the crew are robbing the bank and the DHS facility are by far the best parts of the film, but there's easily over an hour of other stuff in-between them. A film doesn't need to be constant action in order to be good, as long as the other bits are competently done; dialogue and interactions are perfectly capable of gripping a viewer's attention by themselves. The dialogue and interactions here are not that gripping though. Some comparisons have been drawn between the film and the Robert De Niro and Al Pacino film Heat, but that film probably achieved what this film is trying to and is by far a better watch. Triple 9 had some interesting premises, which unfortunately were often not fully developed, such as the back-story between Mike and Irina, and had a couple of interesting scenes, but too much time was spent on the intervening, not really doing anything interesting, bits than the potentially fascinating interactions that led up to the present.

Triple 9 egdcltd 2016-02-20 3.0 0 5