Hot Take: If Dr. Frankenstein were a filmmaker and he had Igor steal the brains of every corrupt cop and heist thriller of the last two decades. Triple 9 is corrupt cop/heist karaoke.
Depending on your mood, Triple 9 could be deliciously entertaining trash or disdainfully uneven dreck. On a good day, it’ll be a glorified B-movie oozing machismo and corruption. On a bad day, it’ll be a gratuitously violent copycat of much better films and television shows of the past. It would be surprising if watching Triple 9 reminds you of Heat, Training Day, Reservoir Dogs, The Departed, Sicario and The Wire just to name a few of the films and shows it seemed to be influenced by.
Despite it’s flaws, lack of originality and plot that doesn’t hold up with any sort of analysis of what occurred, Triple 9 is entertaining in an odd way. Maybe it’s the cast. Seeing Kate Winslet in a blonde wig and hearing her do a competent but out of place Russian accent as the evil head of the Russian mob in Atlanta is fun to watch. Winslet looks like 1990s Sharon Stone and sounds like Brigitte Nielsen in Rocky IV. Anthony Mackie looks and acts like he was lifted from a Training Day prequel. The only thing he would have had to add is a Denzel Washington impression. Woody Harrelson’s character is inexplicably bucktoothed. The only reason I can think the decision for him to have a bucktoothed look is so no one got him confused with Woody Harrelson’s character in True Detective, I guess? Or maybe someone found a set of fake teeth on the set and Woody popped them in and thought, “Hey, this really adds something!” It doesn’t but I’m trying to come up with how the idea came to be.
Unfortunately, Triple 9 has too many storylines, too many characters and is way too uneven to be anything better than a really good B-movie and some will be completely turned off by the violence and portrayal of cops. The only “good” cop (played by Casey Affleck) still roughs up a witness and hangs out at bars and strip clubs. The other cops are either on the take, on drugs or purely evil. Triple 9 has no happy medium. But there’s a little bit of fun in that if you don’t take it seriously. Unfortunately, it’s hard not to take it serious because the film doesn’t crack much of a smile.
“Spoiler Free” Pros
- Atlanta, Georgia, United States
The scenes capturing the surrounding city bring the streets to life at times. When done right, every city’s urban setting has a different look and feel. It’s not along the level of the way The Wire makes the city of Baltimore a central character but Triple 9 only has two hours to accomplish it’s goal and does a halfway decent job of in considering the constraints.
- Winslet’s Role
It’s not Oscar worthy but it’s a guilty pleasure to see her stray so far from her typical work.
“Spoiler Free” Cons
- The Jaded View of Law Enforcement
It’s not how corrupt the large majority of the cops are in the film, it’s how unsurprised the other cops are that their colleagues are so corrupt.
There’s very little concern for human life in Triple 9. From random shoot-outs to severed heads, by the end the killings feel rather normal like someone getting coffee in the morning.