Triple 9 **1/2

Gritty crime drama has a great cast but the story doesn’t hold up.

Is it worth $10? Yes

Here’s a fun game: For each member of the impressive ensemble of “Triple 9,” a middling crime drama that does just enough right to warrant a moderate recommendation, name a great movie or television show in which the actor starred (Aaron Paul was in “Breaking Bad,” etc.). You’re guaranteed to name some great work, and it might just inspire you to see “Triple 9,” which you’ll leave thinking was an “okay” way to spend two hours.

There is one character to root for in “Triple 9,” and that’s Chris (Casey Affleck), a husband to Michelle (Teresa Palmer) and loving father who is a new detective with the Atlanta Police Department. He’s assigned to work with Marcus (Anthony Mackie), which is bad because Marcus is part of a five-man team that robs banks at the request of Russian mafia boss Irina (Kate Winslet). Also on that team are fellow detective Jorge (Clifton Collins Jr.), former special ops Michael (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Russell (Norman Reedus), and Russell’s brother Gabe (Aaron Paul). Part of the reason they work for Irina is because Michael has a son with Irina’s sister Elena (Gal Gadot), and the safety of his loved ones is often threatened. Throughout, Chris’ uncle, Jeff (Woody Harrelson), is tracking the bandits and inching ever closer to the truth.

For their next job, Irina is forcing the men to break into an unmarked Homeland Security building. Knowing they’ll need more time than usual, the thieves plan to shoot Chris and call in a “999,” the police code for an officer down. The idea is that all cops will flock to the 999 call, leaving none to respond to the break-in at Homeland Security.

Deeper complications ensue as various storylines bandy about and slowly come together. Most of it isn’t very compelling, but there’s just enough intrigue and suspense to keep you interested. The story, written by Matt Cook and directed by John Hillcoat, has an appropriately dark and gritty tone and enough gumption to kill off characters as needed, which is notable given the caliber of actors involved.

What the story is lacking, though, is surprises. The plot could have played out a number of ways, so the fact that it does so in such a straightforward manner is a bit of a head-scratcher. As a result there are no “wow” moments of plot twists or shocking revelations, which is a shame because the film needs these to keep the audience mentally engaged. Just following the storyline can get mundane; a few surprises could “jolt” the audience back into rapt attention as the narrative unfolds.

Alas, surprises don’t come, meaning only the body count is truly notable by film’s end. That’s not a great thing to hang an endorsement on, but it is something, and I do believe those eager to see “Triple 9” will not be disappointed. They just won’t be all that thrilled with it either. 

Did you know?
The film shot in and around Atlanta, which is also where Reedus shoots “The Walking Dead.”