Movie Review: Triple 9

A couple movies came out that I am definitely going to see, starting with Triple 9. I will pass on Eddie the Eagle because it is an inspirational drama I have see a hundred times, which is why I skipped Race. Because I have to be somewhere early in the morning on Saturday, Gods of Egypt will wait till the evening or Sunday. So, was Triple 9 worth of admission or did I make the wrong choice?

To pull off a complicated heist Michael, played by Chiwetel Ejiofor, is convinced by the dirty cops on his crew to perform a 999, an “officer down” call code, to keep the police busy. Marcus, played by Anthony Mackie, volunteers to kill his partner Chris, played by Casey Affleck, a self-righteous cop way over his head on the streets of Atlanta.

Triple 9 is best described as The Departed if it was an exploitation film. Every frame permeates filth that comes off the screen in a stench, covered in a sheet of grime that you can touch thanks to how close and personal the movie was shot. The violence is gritty as people are slapped and thrown around or shot at close range with plump blood bursts and general gore. The setting borders on absurd with crime scenes that involve severed heads and a dead hooker in a shopping cart while the Russian Jewish Mafia runs the city out of kosher butchers shop. It makes Atlanta look like Juarez, Mexico.

For all its craziness, however, it works because that is exactly what the movie is trying to do. It builds this bleak, apocalyptic atmosphere where anything insane that can happen does to create a sense of darkness. It fools you into thinking the characters are terrible before it shows you how well rounded they are. They are good people (kind of) that live in a chaotic world.

The main theme is nothing is black and white. Characters are compromised, violent people, but most of them have a consciousness and tangible motivations that define what they do. Ejiofor must be ruthless because the Russians are holding his son. Mackie hates Affleck until he grows on him. Their dimension transcends who they appear to be, making them sympathetic.

The film is just under two hours and it felt like three. Being an ensemble effort with multiple plotlines, you have to contend with all these things going on that must be finished, unless you want to piss off your audience. While everything is tied up, there are so many characters to keep track of it feels overly long. Furthermore, the movie does not tell you anything and leaves out information until it becomes relevant. That is the preferred way to deliver exposition, but it gives out so little so late, you will be waiting for about an hour before you figure out why things are happening.

The cast was quite large, including a few character actors from film and television. Eijofor was great as usual with Woody Harrelson as Jeffrey stealing the show. Affleck and Mackie had great chemistry and Aaron Paul as Gabe was his usual self, his character struggling with the morality of the situation. Kate Winslet was pretty weak as she sat around and talked in terrible monotone accent and Gal Gadot did nothing except look gorgeous. Norman Reedus and Clifton Collins Jr. showed up… and that is all I can say without spoilers.

All in all, Triple 9 was a good cops and robbers drama made like an exploitation film with plenty of violence and anger set against a chaotic backdrop. If you can make it through the long drag of the pacing, it is worth a watch. I also recommend Sabotage if you want another visceral crime drama.

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