TRIPLE 9 review by Gary “Double 8” Murray – an all-star cast heads a gritty crime thriller

TRIPLE 9 review by Gary “Double 8” Murray – an all-star cast heads a gritty crime thriller

Click on image to see it full-size.


Usually there are two different kinds of “heist” flicks. There’s the one where the audience sees all the planning with twists and surprises unfolding as we watch. The other is the kind where the audience sees the aftermath of the crime and the criminals turn on each other. An example of the first is the OCEAN’S saga and the latter is RESERVOIR DOGS. Both entertained their intended audiences but they are very different animals. The new thriller TRIPLE 9 attempts to meld the two formulas.

The story starts out with a dark and gritty bank robbery. Four men have painstakingly planned out the assault on an Atlanta institution. Their main focus is a safety deposit box, but they also take some cash. During the getaway, a red packet goes off and floods the car with smoke. This forces the men to abandon the car and lift another. That is not before they ignite the first car in a blaze of fire and compulsion. When the guys are away and safe, they ditch their clothes and destroy the second getaway car. Then they put on their street clothes. We find out that they are cops and are sent to investigate the crime that was committed. And cops know all the tricks for not getting caught. This is just the setup for the main part of the flick.

Detective Michael Atwood (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is one of the streetwise dirty cops. He is assigned a new partner in Chris Allen (Casey Affleck). The new guy has been in one of the richer parts of Atlanta. Michael doesn’t believe that Chris has the backbone to be an inner-city cop and resents the babysitting of a new partner. Then Michael finds out that the job he and the others have pulled off was not a one-time deal. Irina (Kate Winslet) is the head of an Israeli drug operation while her husband is in federal custody. She is making a play with the federal agents to get her husband out of containment. This is going to require yet another heist from a much bigger target.

When Michael meets with his crew, he lets them know that they are stuck with finishing the second job and getting their money. The building is heavily secured and they will need more time to complete the task.
One of the men comes up with a simple plan. It is a 999 which means that an officer has been shot. Michael has no attachment to Chris and they decide to bring him down. It will also help that Sergeant Detective Jeffery Allen (Woody Harrelson) is the uncle of Chris. The film follows three threads. One is the second heist with finding out that there is no honor among thieves. The second thread is the bonding between Chris and Michael. The third thread is the family that is police officers. The tighter these three threads are interwoven, the more difficult it is to break them apart.

First off, the film has some of the best action sequences seen in quite a while. The opening robbery and subsequent chase gives a thrilling start to the picture. It is too bad that one has to wait almost another 45 minutes for another great chase through the projects. But the ending race to the 999 is as stunning as THE FRENCH CONNECTION. Director John Hillcoat knows how to craft an ‘edge of your seat’ sequence that is on par with the best in Hollywood. It is just that he’s not sure exactly what kind of film he wants to make. In between the action bits, he places a bunch of drug using cops who break the law as much as the criminals. No one in the world of TRIPLE 9 is an innocent and every person has a degree of criminal grime on their pant legs. In the screenplay, there are no good guys in white hats and bad guys in black ones. At times it is just hard to watch.

Casey Affleck plays to his strengths. He is quiet, brooding and reflective. It is just the kind of move that Steve McQueen made a stellar career out of during his lifetime. But Steve was an actor of his generation and would have a hard time pulling off such a stoic performance in the 21st century. Kate Winslet is almost unrecognizable in the role of Irina. With her heavy accent and blonde puffy hair, she looks nothing like the woman we came to love in TITANIC. Here she is a rough and tough lady who will do anything to get her man out of confinement. She is as ruthless and uncaring as a shark in the water. It is against type and proves that she is one of the most talented women in Hollywood. We believe that she knows the ‘secrets of kings.’ Playing into his typecasting is Woody Harrelson as Jeffery, a drug using devil-may-care kind of cop who doesn’t mind that he breaks the laws that he swore to enforce. With all the drugs, one begins to wonder if the role wasn’t tailor made for the actor or the actor was not acting.

We find out that a triple 9 or a 999 is an officer shot, but TRIPLE 9 is a horrible name for a movie. It gives the prospective audience no idea what kind of work that is to be presented. But the word of mouth could bring in a bigger audience the second week than the first. Those wanting a straight action flick will be disappointed in this film with all the talking going on. Those expecting something along the lines of an OCEAN’S 11 caper will be let down with all the extreme violence. And those expecting a cool, edgy and self-reflective flick will be suprised by the sure grit of the film. TRIPLE 9 is not a great film, but does have a few highly entertaining parts.

TRIPLE 9 hits theaters February 26, 2016

Be Sociable, Share!

About the Author

Born and raised in Dallas, Mark has been a movie critic since 1994, with reviews featured in print, radio and National TV. In 2001 he started the Entertainment section of the Herorealm website, where he contributed film reviews and celebrity interviews until 2004. After three years of service there, he started, which has become one of the Dallas film community's leading information websites. Bigfanboy hosts several movie screenings in the Texas area, and works closely with film and TV studios and promotional partners to host exciting events and contests. The site also features a variety of rare celebrity and filmmaker interviews, and regularly covers the film festival circuit as well. In addition to Hollywood reporting, Mark has worked for many years as an advertising and sci-fi/comic book artist. Clients have included Lucasfilm Ltd., Topps Trading Cards, The Dallas Mavericks and The Dallas Stars. From 2002 until 2015 he managed the Dallas Comic Con, Sci-Fi Expo and Fan Days events in the DFW area. He currently catalogs rare comic books and movie memorabilia for Heritage Auctions, and runs the Dallas Comic Show conventions, but remains an avid moviegoer and cinema buff.