Triple 9: A shoot ’em up that misses its target

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2 out of 4 stars

It seemed like the perfect recipe.

Take a bank robbery, throw in some corrupt cops, a splash of the Russian mob and top it with severed heads and urban shootouts that look like they came out of Grand Theft Auto. Combine them with an A-list cast that includes Woody Harrelson, Kate Winslet, Chiwetel Ojifor, Anthony Mackie, Aaron Paul and Casey Affleck before seasoning with explosions, car chases, Latino gangbangers, and strippers and a pinch of vengeance.

Triple 9 should be man-licious – so good it should have guys chest-bumping as the credits roll and debating which murder was the most gruesome and how many women in their 40s are hotter than Winslet?

But somewhere between a choppy plot and story lines that culminate with more questions than answers, Triple 9 loses its flavor.

Woody Harrelson and Casey Affleck are two of very few bright spots in Triple 9. (Open Road)
Woody Harrelson and Casey Affleck are two of very few bright spots in Triple 9. (Open Road)

It’s not inedible, but sink your teeth into it at your own risk. There’s nothing savory about it, which is shameful considering the immense star power that director John Hillcoat simply let fizzle.

It’s frustrating because Triple 9‘s opening scene – a botched bank robbery – grabbed the audience’s attention right away, especially when the masked bankers reveal themselves to be Atlanta police officers. They got what they were after to please a Russian mob boss (Winslet), but she wants more. If the corrupt crew doesn’t break into a Homeland Security facility and steal files that would free her incarcerated husband in Russia, she’ll kill them all.

Blackmail? Of course. But what’s a bunch of crooked cops to do? Pick on the new guy, of course. Affleck plays rookie officer Chris Allen, who has been assigned a new partner: Marcus Belmont (Mackie), one of the robbers. The bad boys in blue decide the only way to pull off the seemingly impossible heist is to kill Allen. After all, “Triple 9″ is
dispatch code for “officer down.”

Kate Winslet, 40, plays a sexy Russian mob boss in Triple 9. (Open Road)
Kate Winslet, 40, plays a sexy Russian mob boss in Triple 9. (Open Road)

Affleck and Mackie play well off each other in a violent movie that has its share of inexplicable deaths and scenes that lack cohesion. While Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave), Paul (Breaking Bad), and Norman Reedus (The Walking Dead) all fail to live up to their reputations, Harrelson and Winslet provide bursts of flavor and are used too sparingly. Harrelson plays Detective Jeffrey Allen, Chris’ uncle, whose rogue style and intense demeanor is a highlight, as is Winslet, whose portrayal of a ruthless, Russian-Jewish mob boss with a pretty good accent.

But at the end of the 115-minute film, after the final bullet has been fired and the last bomb has been detonated, there’s a good chance you’ll leave unsatisfied, wanting more, including an explanation as to why a recipe with so many great ingredients turned sour.

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