On paper, John Hillcoat’s Triple 9 looks exactly like his previous directorial effort Lawless – plenty of manly men doing a lot of back-slapping and shooting and talking about things manly men talk about, the top-shelf cast marking time until they can pick up their paycheck and move onto better things.
On the bright side, it’s rare a movie does deliver on its promises, which Triple 9 does to a tee. This is Lawless: Atlanta, another dirty, bloody crime film that happens to have an impressively talented cast who are usually getting Oscar nominations for biopics about Steve Jobs or being the toast of the Sundance Film Festival, not starring in B-grade action movies. But B-grade action this is, just swap the moonshine (honestly, all I remember about Lawless was moonshine and Jessica Chastain with a Southern accent dancing in a bar with Tom Hardy) for a lot of dirty cash and criminal brothers for a lot of dirty policemen looking to get rich and double cross a lot of people in the process (although who they’re double crossing isn’t actually clear), and there you have it.
Triple 9 is fine enough for the first act: there’s a couple of good action scenes, and Kate Winslet turns up much too briefly to add to the body count and wear an excellent bright red coat and matching boots while sporting a Russian accent (if we’re being honest, I was here for her). It’s all good, mindless fun until the midway point, where you realise that Hillcoat hasn’t built any kind of narrative or characters. You can’t actually discern what’s going on (how did all of them end up in this mess? Are the all policemen? Why is Chiwetel Ejiofor’s son being held captive by the Russian mafia?), much less care about whether these characters live or die at the hands of Kate Winslet’s beautiful red boots. From there, the film quickly veers out of control. Sure, it was a pulpy mess before, but now its a nonsensical, boring pulpy mess. Once the body count starts to really pile up in the third act, you’re hard pressed to muster up any kind of emotion. But, like the rest of the film, it’s fleeting. By the time you leave the cinema, Triple 9 will be little more than Kate and her Russian accent, off to much more memorable projects. Next!