I don’t really know where to start with how screwed up every part of this movie is. I could begin with the lighting, camerawork, score, writing, or anything else and spend quite a while on it. However, it would take a lot of time to dig into each individual element that doesn’t work with so many at play here. So, I’m going to go over the one thing that does work and then I’ll go over three of the things that don’t. That will even out to a 25 out of 100 positive to negative ratio. Which sounds about right.
The only thing that works in ‘Triple Nine’ is the cast. Not because they do a lot with their cookie cutter characters, but because they manage to make this nonsense watchable at all. There is an amazing group of actors here and they would be amazing regardless of what lame characters they are forced to play. This all star cast includes Casey Affleck, Kate Winslet, Woody Harrelson, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and a half dozen others stars. All you need is a good script and you could make another ‘Pulp Fiction’ with all these talented folks.
Which brings us to the screenplay. This story is a totally incoherent bit of mumbo jumbo. Chiwetel Ejiofor is an ex Navy Seal who screwed Gal Gadot and had a kid. As bad luck would have it, she was sisters with a Russian Jew crime lord Kate Winslet. Kate wants some items that will get her husband out of a Russian prison for some reason. So, she blackmails him and some crooked cops (Anthony Mackie, Clifton Collins Jr., Aaron Paul) into doing an impossible job. The cops believe the only way to accomplish the job is to kill their fellow cop (Casey Affleck) as a distraction. None of it works very well, but it’s not completely incoherent structurally.
The real problem with the script is that nobody in the whole movie is worth giving a shit about. You have a bunch of shitty cops, drug addicts, vicious murders, and terrorists. Then you have Casey Affleck as the Boy Scout cop, but he’s get little character development. We just know he has Teresa Palmer as a wife and a cute kid. Woody Harrelson is also a cop investigating the murderous cops, but he’s always a step behind everything anyways. There is absolutely nobody worth caring about in any way. Well, Norman Reedus seems like a decent guy for the five minutes he’s in the movie, but he gets little info either. It’s just a mess.
Then there is the horrible tech side of things. This movie looks like garbage. There are a slew of darkly lit shots to make you mad. Every single action sequences is edited at a million miles an hour, but there is not a decent angle among any of the cut together shots. Some of the decently paced sequences (like a raid scene in the middle of the movie) are so poorly shot that you can’t make out a lot of it. It’s just a bad looking movie.
You add a very generic (and mostly annoying) score to all of this and you get a movie with almost nothing to enjoy. Which is all made worse by the fact that everybody involved is so talented. I’ve already mentioned the actors, but the director John Hillcoat is someone that I’ve been impressed with for years. His last few movies (Lawless, The Road) were fantastic and left audiences waiting to see what this guy could do with a bigger budget. Well, it appears from this movie that he has squandered that opportunity. I almost want this movie to make just enough money to give Hillcoat another chance, but that would mean you guys would have to go see it. And that is a sacrifice I cannot bare for you to make.
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