Review: ‘Triple 9’ Full of Heart Pounding Action and Intensity

Triple 9, one of those gritty heist tales from director John Hillcoat (The Proposition, Lawless, The Road),  is set to open in theaters nationwide this weekend. It boasts a fantastic cast and will deliver for audiences with its heart-pounding action sequences and gut wrenching story.

This story of corrupt cops and dirty thieves set on the seamy streets of Atlanta stars Chiwetel Ejiofor as Terrell Tompkins, the leaders of a criminal group for hire. Tompkins’ group is made up partly of corrupt police officers. The crew narrowly escapes the opening bank job following a messy and intense highway shootout. They think they’re done working for the Russians (the gang that hired them for the bank job) but they are forced into one last job by a member of their crew is killed. Irina (Kate Winslet), the head of the Russian gang, makes it even more personal by holding Terrell’s son practically captive. Their mission is to rob a Homeland Security building. The group decided the way to do this would be to commit a Triple 9 (shoot a cop) on the other side of town as a distraction and their target winds up being a young detective, Chris Allen (Casey Affleck), who just joined the gang unit. Hot on the thieves’ trail is a grizzled detective played by Woody Harrelson.

Triple 9 has everything fans would want in a film. It’s directed by one of the most talented genre filmmakers working today, and the screenplay is chock-full of intense moments and pulse-pounding action. The cast is tremendous with the likes of Anthony Mackie, Aaron Paul, and Norman Reedus filling out key supporting roles. With talent like this, it’s no shock that the film turned out as well as it did. Everyone delivers strong performances, but the standout performance belongs to Ejiofor. Ejiofor gives an exceptional performance as the leader of the gang who has the most to lose.

The screenplay written by Matt Cook is full of twists, turns, and plenty of double crosses. Cook develops the characters in the film in such a way that you know just enough to want to know more. He lures you into this seedy world of crime and corruption and rather than try and get out of it; you want to dig further in. And for those out there who may know which way the wind blows here, and think they might have the twist figured out, a scene near the idle involving a central character may very well upend those predictions.

Cooks’ screenplay is rife with subtext; Anthony Mackie, who plays one of the “crooked” cops in Triple 9, starts off morality free when it comes to committing these criminal acts with his crew, but as the film progresses, you begin to spot the development of a conscious. Now, in lesser films we’d see this played out in some heated crime-drama dialogue. Mackie, though, is all body language and contorted glances.

The action in Triple 9 is effectively heart pounding, to say the least. Too often these days, the action is shaky-cammed to death or maybe blocked a bit too perfect. Triple 9’s action is intense from go and it never relents, beautifully messy and kinetic. What enhanced this was Hillcoat’s decision to shoot many of these sequences using tight, narrow lenses. It traps you in the car while the cops chase the crooks. Triple 9 isn’t going to break records or stick around long, but it’s an enjoyable genre exercise with solid character work and plenty of action and suspense to push you through the plot at a breakneck pace.

Triple 9

Dewey Singleton - Film Critic
Dewey Singleton - Film Critic
I'm a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association and have been doing reviews for many years. My views on film are often heard in markets such as Atlanta, Houston, and satellite radio. My wife often tolerates my obsession for all things film related and two sons are at an age now where 'Trolls' is way cooler than dad. Follow me on twitter @mrsingleton.