Movie Review: “Triple Nine” Falls Short, Crawls To Finish

Powerhouse cast, superb cinematography creates passable slow boil

By Damian Giampietro

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

 

For police officers, a code “999” translates to “officer down” and that’s exactly what these Atlanta-based heist men are attempting to make heard over police radios.

The crime thriller “Triple Nine,” which was released Feb. 26 boasts a star-studded cast: Casey Affleck, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Anthony Mackie, Aaron Paul, Clifton Collins Jr., Norman Reedus, Kate Winslet, Teresa Palmer, and Woody Harrelson.

Not to mention the director, John Hillcoat, who is known for prior gritty, hard-hitting films like 2012’s “Lawless.”

The heist crew is comprised of former special ops agents, Michael Belmont (Ejiofor) and Russell Welch (Reedus), two dirty police officers, Marcus Atwood (Mackie) and Jorge Rodriguez (Collins) and an ex-officer and Russell’s brother, Gabe Welch (Paul).

Opening with a dimly lit, suffocating car scene, the grimy cinematography immediately hooks viewers.

The movie then transitions to a bank heist with the group covered head-to-toe in black clothes as they carry military-grade weapons and perform smoothly as a tactical unit.

The men are only robbing the bank for a single safety deposit box but Gabe becomes greedy and fills his backpack with money.

Later, a dye pack hidden in the cash explodes and stains the entire team during the getaway, further complicating their escape.

It’s soon revealed that the group is being manipulated and overseen by a Russian mobster, Irina Vlaslov (Winslet), who won’t pay them until a second job is completed.

After one of the heist men is murdered, the rest of the crew becomes divided over whether to stage a “999” for the second job or not.

Atwood, coincidentally, is teamed up with a rookie officer, Chris Allen (Affleck), nephew to Sergeant Detective Jeffrey Allen (Harrelson), who is investigating the most recent heist.

The movie’s cinematography is fresh and enticing, becoming one of its few saving graces.

For example, during a gang unit search turned shootout, viewers look through the thin window of a riot shield held by Affleck’s character, capturing the action and placing the audience directly in the middle of the firefight.

Also, the movie’s use of color and lighting is visually stimulating, which helps to focus on sordid environments like the nightclubs and pubs illuminated by neon signs and graffiti-covered abandoned buildings.

However, there are two small issues that distract from the movie’s overall aesthetic.

The first being the horrible fake teeth used by Harrelson, which make him hard to pay attention to, let alone look at.

The second is Winslet’s choppy Russian accent that tends to be poorly mixed with her normal voice.

Besides the surface issues, the development of characters is almost nonexistent.

The majority of the characters stay so utterly stagnant, even with the undeniable thespian talent that is at the movie’s disposal.

An obvious attempt to jump off the screen is made by some characters but they are quickly smothered by atrocious dialogue and ill-defined characterization.

For instance, Chris Allen bleeds unharnessed potential and an untapped story that audiences deserve.

His wife, Michelle (Palmer), follows suit and seems to fall flat immediately, solely becoming a half-naked beauty instead of a robust female role.

The capacity for stronger story and characterization is evident.

The story beams with its unpredictable plot, but “Triple Nine” ultimately falls short on delivering anything except a compelling heist film with a beautiful list of faces, talent and shots.