I like to remain open-minded about my film experiences, and sometimes I take a more cerebral approach to my cinematic choices by occasionally venturing beyond my comfort zone. But when all else fails, stick with what you know. When I saw the trailer for Triple 9, I knew this was my type of movie. Reminiscent of movies such as Training Day and Street Kings, Triple 9 promised a gritty look into the seedy world of corrupt law enforcement and the criminals to whom they are indebted. Featuring a talented cast including the likes of Chiwetel Ejiofor (Secret in Their Eyes, The Martian) and Kate Winslet (Steve Jobs), my curiosity was sufficiently piqued. It looked like the type of movie to fly under the radar, and sure enough my theater was sparsely populated.
I often say that movies are won and lost in their opening and closing sequences, and Triple 9 started with a literal bang and never let up. It begins in the back of a van, without about six men gearing up for what appears to be some type of tactical mission. Are they cops? A swat team? Bank robbers, or all of the above? They expertly execute a bank heist with precision, targeting only a singular safe deposit box. As they flee the scene of the crime and peel off their masks, we see that most of them are actually cops. They are lead by Michael Atwood (Ejiofor), ex-military private security, police officers Marcus Belmont (Anthony Mackie, The Night Before), Franco Rodriguez (Clifton Collins Jr., Transcendence), ex-cop Gabe Welch (Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad) and his brother Russell (Norman Reedus, The Walking Dead). The crooked bunch are working at the behest of the Russian mob, controlled by a very sinister Kate Winslet (Steve Jobs) as Irina Visalov, wife of an incarcerated Russian mobster.
Irina and Atwood’s relationship grows increasingly volatile after she ups the ante and insists they pull off another heist, this time from a Homeland Security facility – a nearly impossible feat. In a cruel stroke of genius, Rodriguez has a plan to divert local law enforcement’s attention while they pull of the job. When an officer goes down in the line of duty, his fellow brothers in blue respond immediately, citywide. Just as 187 is the police code for murder, 999 (triple 9) is the code for officer down, or in distress. If they can pull off a Triple 9, they can square things with Irina and walk away with a big payday. Stuck between the law and the mob, these crooked cops have their work cut out for them, leveraged to the hilt.
I enjoyed this movie for the simple reason that it was entertaining. There were some issues with pacing, as the movie wore on in its final act, but overall I enjoyed it because several scenes were nothing short of an adrenaline rush. The performances were mostly good, with Mackie and Ejiofor particularly bringing a convincing and conflicting emotionality to their roles. Winslet was as I’d never seen her, unnerving and vicious. The script faltered a bit here and there in terms of realism, but I mostly thought it was solid. You could say this was a poor man’s Training Day, and it won’t be remembered, but hey, I liked it! I give it a solid grade of: B