Director John Hillcoat has previously made such gun-toting films as The Proposition and Lawless. Here he brings a touch of the Wild West into the modern age and onto the streets as criminals and corrupt cops combine to pull off a big heist under the guise of an “Officer Down” police call aka Triple 9.
High praise has to go to casting directors Craig Fincannon and Lisa Mae Fincannon because they have stuffed Triple 9 to the gills with huge Hollywood talent. It’s so jam-packed it could be a Marvel superhero movie. However, it’s not because this is real life. These characters are reckless by design, asking the question: When do corrupt cops stop being cops and start becoming criminals?
Flashy, bangy and wallopy from the off, Triple 9 sets out to pound action through a very thin plot. From the opening heist accompanied with a ticking time soundtrack, Hillcoat has created a visual action movie that is adrenalin-fuelled every step of the way. Taking its lead from such action movies as Heat, Point Break and Speed, the action set pieces fizz with style and frenetic energy. This is Triple 9’s winning hand. It pulls in the entire cast, whether good guys or bad, and makes them front and centre of the action. Even during the quieter moments of the film it appears the energy is never less than full on. A scene in a diner between Ejiofor’s corrupt cop Terrell and Winslet’s Russian mobster Irina is played out quietly but with tension and aggressive menace in every sentence they utter. “Cops look after cops” is one of the mottos. Yet cops battling cops is part of the movie’s charm of creating a telling standoff between the real good guys and the “fake” good guys. One large, chaotic gun fight in a tower block complex is damn fine running and gunning action and the heist finale has the feel of Custer’s last stand.
The storyline behind the heists is not the tightest. Anyone scratching below the surface for subtext will find a hollow bank vault of ideas. It needed more going on from the Russian mafia characters than Winslet’s terrifyingly bad Russian accent. Thankfully Ejiofor, Harrelson, Affleck and Collins Jr create standout performances that engage every time they are on screen.
Heist movies have been done before, and better, but that doesn’t stop Triple 9 from busting a gut load of action with a big, big cast.