Director John Hilcoat has made a career out on the fringes, first gaining serious attention with 2005s gritty Aussie Western The Proposition and earning critical acclaim for the incredible bleak adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road in 2009.
His latest film sees the Australian director handling his biggest budget yet and a starry cast including Kate Winslet, Casey Affleck, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Anthony Mackie, Aaron Paul, Gal Gadot, Woody Harrelson and Norman Reedus and a modern American setting for the first time in his career.
Triple 9 has a few things going for it, starting with that impressive cast list including some Marvel and DC superheroes and villains and plenty of familiar faces. It also has a grubby sense of style and a setting in Atlanta that’s a bit of a change of pace from the L.A. and New York set tales we’ve seen before.
Otherwise it’s a pretty conventional cops and robbers movie. There are bad guys who steal things and slightly better guys who try to catch them. There’s a rookie cop, a family broken apart and some corruption going on – totally conventional stuff.
That familiarity would be fine if there was something else to latch onto but the film lacks pace and drive and the movements of the plot are lumbering at best, and downright awkward at worst, right down to an ending that’s poorly explained. With a running time of almost two hours, it all gets a little bit boring.
It doesn’t help that most of the cast seems to be on autopilot. Apart from the always reliable Ejiofor, no one is even trying to dig into their characters, instead playing a basic cop movie stereotype. Then there’s Affleck, whose only defining characteristics are that he chews gum a lot and seems like a bit of an asshole. And he’s the supposed hero of the piece.
There are a couple of grimly well-made set pieces in Triple 9 and a few decent character moments but otherwise there’s little to recommend here for anyone who has seen a cop movie before.