After a group of corrupt cops and ex-Navy Seals successfully stage a heist for a Russian syndicate, the mob withholds their fee and blackmails them into staging a more complicated job to set free a Russian mafia boss. However, to pull off the second job, they must stage a diversion and kill a cop. The unlucky candidate is a new cop on the beat Chris (Casey Affleck) but things don’t go exactly as planned.
Triple 9 is a fairly interesting film with a lot of twists and turns that are familiar to films with a similar genre. Since it deals with corrupt cops, soldiers, and a Russian mob, viewers should not be surprised that a lot of double crosses, blackmails and complications are in the movie.
The film had a lot going for it — a solid cast of characters topbilled by Chiwetel Ejiofor as Mike, a former Seal and the group’s leader, Woody Harrelson as Jeff, the detective in charge of the investigation and Chris’ uncle, Anthony Mackie as Marcus, Chris’ partner, Aaron Paul and Norman Reedus as Gabe and Russel, brothers and former police and Navy men and Clifton Collins Jr. as Franco, another detective. There was also Kate Winslet as Irina, the wife of the Russian mob lord who is also the sister of Mike’s ex-girlfriend.
The story was very complicated because the characters had intertwined relationships. The story in itself, armed with plenty of twists, is made even more complicated by these relationships. To a degree, these help in understanding the characters’ motivations but in a sense, these complications took away some impact of the action element, because audiences don’t really know who to root for. Was it brooding Chris (Casey Affleck) who took a page from his brother’s (Ben Affleck) The Town persona, or was it Mike, whose child is being dangled in front of him like a carrot? Was it Jeff, who felt that something big was about to go down but couldn’t put a finger on it or was it several other characters who also had to deal with their issues?
The film managed to keep up the level of suspense, especially on pulling off the action sequences. It also managed to lull audiences into believing that some characters are safe because of their A-list career status. But then, it adds something unpredictable and adds another layer to the film.
However, there were times when I got confused what the goal of the film was because the film seemed uncertain as to what it was supposed to be delivering. Was it action, drama? Because the drama element was a lot stronger.
I was a bit disappointed that Aaron Paul, then, was underutilized in this movie. I felt he got the short end of the stick in landing his role, which basically required him to alternately break down and self destruct. Same with the rest of the talented cast of actors in this movie. You could feel that everyone was holding back because of the limits set by the material, and that’s a crying shame.
All in all, Triple 9 was a passable film but its very frustrating to watch because despite all its advantages, it fails to deliver a climax worthy of the combined talents of its powerhouse cast. In the end, it comes off as a brooding, sulky thriller doddering at a 6 when it could easily have been a 10.