Triple 9 Review

Triple 9
  • Directing7
  • Writing6
  • Acting7

Triple 9 is talented director John Hillcoat's attempt at a heist film, stacked with a star-studded cast, but weighed down by a loose plot and constant cliches. Decently forgettable.


Director John Hillcoat (The Road & Lawless) returns to the big screen with Triple 9, a star-studded heist film that feels all too familiar as writer Matt Cook inserts enough cliches and lousy characters to warrant a side of caution despite the talent that’s assembled. Triple 9 isn’t awful by any means, but it’s far more predictable and dull than it is exciting.

John Hillcoat‘s latest follows a gang of criminals (including two corrupt cops) as they plan to pull off their biggest heist yet, which includes killing a cop. The plot may sound intriguing, but the film comes loaded with a dose of generic as virtually every character and plot point is taken from other much more exciting crime films.

Casey Affleck plays the film’s only central good guy Chris Allen — a recently transferred cop. He gets partnered up with the cowardly and corrupt Marcus (Anthony Mackie) and quickly Marcus realizes that killing Chris could help him and the rest of his thugs commit their biggest heist yet. Apparently killing a cop will distract other cops as they’re called on a 999, which routes them all to the downed cop, thus allowing the gang to commit their crime.

Michael (Chiwetel Ejiofor), Gabe (Aaron Paul), Russell (Norman Reedus) and Franco (Clifton Collins Jr.) make up the rest of the all-star team of slime and sleazy, with Franco being the other corrupt cop.

Each man seems to have his own cliched reasons as to why he wants to commit the heist, which is made all the more pointless with the inclusion of a Russian mobster wife (Kate Winslet) and a drugged out cop (Woody Harrelson) trying to keep his family from getting harmed.

It’s an odd choice of characters made all the stranger by Cook’s under-cooked script. Joking aside, Triple 9 features just about every cliched character known to heist movies and to make matters worse Cook’s script fails to actually expand upon them.

Affleck’s character is supposed to be the lead of the film, yet he’s pushed to the side of the film and used as a piece of suspense as the gang slowly starts planning ways to kill him.

The gang themselves aren’t all that likable or interesting, with either not enough focus given to any particular member to warrant an emotional response from their death or too much focus on pointless aspects of their character’s day-to-day life setting up into the heist.

It’s an off-putting and unfocused direction that I can’t believe is coming from John Hillcoat.

Hillcoat previously directed the boot-legging drama Lawless and the bleak slow-burn look at the apocalypse with The Road. He’s a man known for his slow approach and focus on damaged, yet detailed characters, yet Triple 9 features a giant cast and none of them are properly utilized.

Each performance is either severely dry or lacking any real depth. The only one who seems to understand the film is Woody Harrelson, giving a performance that’s occasionally over-the-top and always all-over-the-place. It’s the only redeemable trait of the film, yet it almost doesn’t even have a place in the film.

Triple 9 does feature a couple of really well-made action sequences that are tightly shot and captured with raw intensity that echoes Hillcoat’s previous films’ emotional complexity, yet enhances his scope with the increased budget and resources.

The film also comes with a pulse-pounding score that’s dark, ominous and layered in a way that sounds like unmuffled background noise, yet is always proving to be a crucial part of each scene’s given location. It’s an experimental approach that definitely pays off and builds on the already dark and grim nature of the film.

But Triple 9 still fails to be the next best heist film. It’s no Heat or even a distant cousin to The Town and instead fumbles with its cast and fails at living up to its true potential. It’s a film that’s easily forgettable, offering up only slight glances at characters that could’ve been so much more.

Hillcoat knows how to capture grit and shoot a film that’s not afraid to be violent and nasty, but he’s failed to capture that raw intensity, which was effortlessly on display in his previous films. Matt Cook‘s script offers up no help as it’s filled with excess characters, a loose plot and no real sense of direction.

Triple 9 will quickly exit your brain and only be remembered as the film Casey Affleck couldn’t stop chewing bubble gum in. The only thing I want to know is what flavor was he chewing and why didn’t he offer Anthony Mackie a piece?!

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