Look, we like our full-throttle heist flicks as much as the next action junkie, and Triple 9 kicks off with a scorcher of a bank heist. A band of dirty cops and ex-military men stage a broad-daylight Atlanta bank job and, to throw off the good cops, brutally ice one of their own. The scene is all jumpy cuts and high-tension with a hopped-up electronic Atticus Ross score as the gang makes its haul, wrapped in ski masks and shades. It’s a solid if unoriginal start from director John Hillcoat (The Road) and screenwriter Mark Cook. But then things go wonky—fast.
The movie’s title is police code for “officer down” but pretty much everybody goes down in this 10-old-movies-in-one pileup, which wastes the best efforts of Chiwetel Ejiofor, Casey Affleck, Clifton Collins Jr. (the real scene-stealer), Anthony Mackie, Woody Harrelson, Gal Gadot, Norman Reedus and Aaron Paul. Even the best of them get held captive by a routine script and Hillcoat’s falsely portentous direction. Their characters get manipulated by the Machiavellian puppetry of a ruthless Russian-Israeli Mob leader (Kate Winslet, in a role way below her pay grade) who blackmails the corrupt crew into doing a second, far more dangerous job. By then, though, you may not give a damn. Imagine, say, an episode of The Wire without originality, conviction, thorough characterization or connective tissue.
Triple 9 is all pose, noise, flash and phony grit without a point, let alone a point of view. But hey, if you’re up for seen-it-all-before car smashups, stakeouts and bang-bang, then you could probably do worse than the needlessly labyrinthine, uninvolving Triple 9.