PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Reviews

'Triple 9' Is Full of Heists, Cops, and Wasted Talents

John Hillcoat’s heist flick brings an embarrassment of acting riches to bear on a laughably disjointed script that can’t decide whether to go for self-seriousness or self-parody.


Triple 9

Cast: Casey Affleck, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kate Winslet, Anthony Mackie, Woody Harrelson, Clifton Collins Jr., Aaron Paul, Gal Gadot, Teresa Palmer, Norman Reedus, Michael Kenneth Williams
Rated: R
Studio: Open Road Films
Year: 2016
Trailer

Gruesomely violent and often idiotic, Triple 9 demonstrates the latest stage of decline for once promising director John Hillcoat. His previous films display a potent gothic sensibility: The Proposition and The Road, both explore the dark limits of human behavior, but even in showing extreme violence, they never acknowledge the complexities of loss. The focus of 2012's Lawless is less clear, as a rote bootleggers’ story is enlivened only by the contrast between Guy Pearce’s flamboyant campiness and Tom Hardy’s rock-like stoicism.

With Triple 9, it’s hard to spy even a glimmer of Hillcoat's earlier inclination. Just about any director could have shot this film.

A heist story that wrenches itself into a protracted epic about honor among thieves, Matt Cook's script for Triple 9 starts off with a bank holdup by a gang who operate more like a special-ops squad than run-of-the-mill criminals. As in any story of this kind, the first job introduces the team’s balance of types, from the brotherly leaders, Russell (Norman Reedus) and Michael (Chiwetel Ejiofor), who read as the decent ones reluctant to kill anybody unnecessarily, to the more tightly wound Rodriguez (Clifton Collins Jr.). We're also familiar with the sweaty drug addict Gabe (Aaron Paul), guaranteed to screw things up for everybody, and the apparently thoughtful Marcus (Anthony Mackie), bound to become the dramatic linchpin of what’s to follow.

Following this initial job, Rodriguez and Marcus head off to work, which just so happens to be the Atlanta Police Department. This plot point will strain to power the remainder of the film. Once Michael delivers the goods to Irina (Kate Winslet), the Russian mob queen who hired them, he’s informed that the gang won’t get paid until they do another job.

This time, they’ve got to hit a Department of Homeland Security black site and retrieve some techno whatsit that will spring Irina’s husband from the gulag. Irina, whose heavies like to rip out people’s teeth and keep them in a baggie, has all kinds of extortionate means at her disposal to convince Michael to comply. Thus, even though he and his team quickly determine that it’s a suicide mission, and the only way they can pull it off is to divert the city’s police with a 9-9-9: Killing a cop. In a fantastic bit of luck, Marcus has just been saddled with a new partner, Chris (Casey Affleck), whom he despises and can’t wait to take out.

This set-up might have led to a tight knot of double-crosses and intricate conflicts, overlaid with an ominous noirish sheen. Instead, Triple 9 delivers yawning story inconsistencies, uniformly simplistic dialogue, far too little plot spread over nearly two interminable hours, a surplus of headline-grabbing allusions (everything from Blackwater to cartel death squads), and a vision of Atlanta as some of kind of Fincherian urban hell. It’s both too little and way, way too much, like a David Ayer script with all the self-conscious grit but none of the male bonding.

Amid this cacophony of images and ideas, the film tries to find room for Chris’ uncle Jeffrey (Woody Harrelson). He whipsaws between being a lowdown dope-smoking burnout of a cop given to inventing phrases like “InstaGoogleTweetFace” (and so reminding you of every other cop Harrelson has ever played) and a true believer obsessing over getting the bad guys and keeping his nephew safe. Jeffrey’s mistimed comic relief only serves to highlight the tediously grim assassination plot that's creaking along around him.

Triple 9 would be laughable if it weren't so lamentable. Watching so many skilled performers so unable to inject the film with drama or a sense of danger is, at last, just depressing.

2

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.

Music

Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.

Books

The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.

Books

'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.

Music

1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.

Film

'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.

Music

The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.

Music

Mary Halvorson Creates Cacophony to Aestheticize on 'Artlessly Falling'

Mary Halvorson's Artlessly Falling is a challenging album with tracks comprised of improvisational fragments more than based on compositional theory. Halvorson uses the various elements to aestheticize the confusing world around her.

Music

15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s

With every "Best of the '90s" retrospective comes a predictable list of entries. Here are 15 albums that are often overlooked as worthy of placing in these lists, and are too often underrated as some of the best records from the decade.

Books

'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.

Music

20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.

Film

Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.

Film

The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.

Television

Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).

Music

Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.