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Triple 9: Movie Review

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If you’ve seen enough movies over enough time-and lord knows I’ve seen over a dozen-you can easily recognize trends in the industry that can help guide your movie going tendencies, often without needing to so much as read a single movie review, as crazy as that sounds. For instance, if a studio releases a big, long, boring, preachy, artsy slog in December you should definitely go see that if you’re the kind of person who likes to brag to people at Oscar parties about seeing Best Picture nominees in full blown IMAX instead of having to wait for the streaming release after the Academy informs you how wonderful you’re supposed to think it is. Another thing to look out for is a film with a star-studded cast dropping in February. That often indicates that a studio put some cash into a film, screwed it up, couldn’t fix it and dumped it in movie release wasteland of January-February hoping that people would be desperate to see anything and competition would be light. I mean, who saw Deadpool coming? Well, what Hollywood executive anyway? I’m not one for research, but I’m more than willing to speculate that these films typically fail to deliver. I’m looking at you Focus! This is why I’m more than a little skeptical of Triple 9, a movie with a trailer that sells it as Training Day without Denzel but with a lot of actors you like more than Ethan Hawke. A lot of them. So many. How bad can that be, though? Let’s find out.

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Triple 9 tells the story of a crew of bank robbers led by former special forces operative Michael (Chiwetel Ojiofor) along with fellow special ops pal Russel (Norman Reedus) and his misfit brother Gabe (Aaron Paul). Rounding out the team are two dirty cops, Marcus and Jorge, played by Anthony Mackie and Clifton Collins Jr.. After being blackmailed by Jewish Russian mob boss Irina (Kate Winslet), Michael’s team is forced to retrieve multiple MacGuffins in order to secure the safety of his family and his crew. Ultimately, the gang decides on a plan that places Marcus’ new partner Chris (Casey Affleck) in grave danger with only his veteran “cop with a dark side” uncle Detective Jeffrey Allen (Woody Harrelson) watching his back. Needless to say, the stakes get high and stuff gets real.

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If you’ve ever read a review of mine, you’re probably surprised to see me name drop so many actors in that summary, but I assure you, it’s on purpose. I didn’t even get to mention future Wonder Woman Gal Gadot or former Omar Little Michael Kenneth Williams-that’s how stacked this cast is! And they work their butts off. Every performance is solid, with the possible exception of Kate Winslet, who’s forced to play a comically evil character meant to add an extra degree of menace but who really just leaves you scratching your head wondering why this subplot (main plot?) even exists. It feels like a political commentary. In fact, I can’t imagine how it isn’t. Casey Affleck plays Casey Affleck from every other movie perfectly in this film and it’s a character likable enough to nearly salvage this whole thing even if he spends enough of his screen time holding his sidearm sideways like a gangster that it is undoubtedly intentional and infuriatingly distracting.

Triple 9Triple 9 is so convoluted and all over the map that you’d swear it was too hard to follow if the basic elements weren’t so damn basic. I’m positive at least two things that happened were very intentionally highlighted by director John Hillcoat and then left completely unexplained. The main conceit, and the inspiration for the title has been used in some variation numerous times in other better crime capers and every time it’s so silly that it might as well be called Sale at the Donut Shop.

I know it feels like I’ve been harsh, but this genre shouldn’t ever be this poorly butchered. It’s largely by the numbers, and if they’d stuck to formula this cast would have let them sail to a tidy box office. As it is, the actors made Triple 9 watchable, possibly enjoyable, but certainly not believable.

Triple 9
Director:  John Hillcoat
Studio:  Open Road Films
Genre:  Drama, Crime
MPAA:  tbd
Release Date:  February 26th, 2016
Author:  Steve Hanning

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