Triple 9

Film, Drama
4 out of 5 stars
3 out of 5 stars
(5user reviews)
Triple 9

A gang of dirty cops plan a heist in this superb, star-packed thriller

Director John Hillcoat’s films have a habit of falling just shy of greatness. ‘The Proposition’, ‘The Road’ and especially ‘Lawless’ had all the right elements in place, but seemed to buckle under their own dramatic seriousness and weighty big-name performances. Well, it turns out that all Hillcoat had to do was lighten up. A dirty-cop thriller that never lets its scuzzy urban backdrop and tough-guy characters get in the way of a rocket-fuel plot, ‘Triple 9’ is his most enjoyable and perhaps best movie to date.

The cast is phenomenal. Chiwetel Ejiofor stars as the head badass in a band of bank-robbing Atlanta cops, with Anthony Mackie as his taciturn right-hand man and Aaron ‘Breaking Bad’ Paul as the obligatory loose cannon who’s sure to get them all busted. Casey Affleck plays a bright-eyed recruit who signs up with Woody Harrelson’s loose-living detective sergeant to track them down, while Kate Winslet practically rips the screen in two as the mad-eyed Russian mob boss who keeps Ejiofor’s cojones in a vice.

Tight, taut and brilliantly structured, ‘Triple 9’ is old-school to the core (flash back 40 years and Gene Hackman would have been a lock for Ejiofor’s embattled anti-hero). The characterisation may be a touch thin: we know from his first scene where Aaron Paul’s sketchy deadbeat is headed. But the moments of tension are powerfully handled – a late-in-the-day heist sequence is nailbiting – and when it all explodes into inevitable violence, we’re right there in the trenches.

There may be little here we haven’t seen before – glassy reflections of Michael Mann’s ‘Heat’ pop up everywhere you look – but it’s all carried off with brashness and momentum by a director who genuinely seems to be having a blast. Fans of ‘The Wire’, James Ellroy, freeway shootouts, black balaclavas, burning trucks, betrayal and the words ‘everybody get on the floor!’, step right up.

By: Tom Huddleston


Release details

Release date:
Friday February 19 2016
115 mins

Cast and crew

John Hillcoat
Matt Cook
Teresa Palmer
Kate Winslet
Norman Reedus
Woody Harrelson
Casey Affleck
Aaron Paul
Chiwetel Ejiofor

Average User Rating

3.2 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:0
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I'm afraid I wasn't a big fan. It was reminiscent of those '70's type films but I wasn't satisfied and was left with a muddy plot. It starts off with a bang and ends in a fizzle.


Good cop thrillers, much like good hearts these days, are hard to find. For every ‘End of Watch’, ‘Heat’ & ‘Turner & Hooch’ (yeah, I said it), there’s a ‘Showtime’, an ‘RIPD’, a ‘White Chicks’. ‘Triple 9’ may not find itself in the venerable company of those first 3 films but thankfully, for both its pedigree cast and audiences watching, neither will it find itself floundering alongside the latter 3.

Director John Hillcoat of ‘Lawless’ and ‘The Road’ fame does exactly what you want him to do and delivers a smart, action packed and very watchable movie starring Kate Winslet’s hair, Kate Winslet, dependable everyman Chiwetel Ejiofor, twitchily useless Aaron Paul, drawly-as-ever Woody Harrelson and ‘The Walking Dead’s Norman Reedus, enjoying a spot of bank robbing on his hiatus from zombie killing.

The opening few moments are nicely understated although you’ll be relieved when the pace and speaking volume are both turned up pretty quickly. The bank robbery isn’t the flashiest to be put on film – it’s no ‘Point Break’s dead presidents – but the ensuing chase through the Los Angeles freeways is tense and original. Winslet’s Russian doll is believably cruel to the team of dirty cops as she forces them to carry out a final heist though you will find yourself marveling at the scale of her coiffure the first time you see her on screen. In order to distract the police community away from said heist location, a triple 9 is suggested; take down a cop in one part of town and no-one will pay attention to anything happening in another. When the proposed target refuses to play ball however, a game of greedy cat & vengeful mouse ensues.

The stellar cast could play every single one of these roles in their sleep but that doesn’t make them guilty of lazy performances; Anthony Mackie’s conflicted cop is empathetic at times and well in need of a slap at others while Casey ‘better-in-every-way-than-his-brother-when-on-screen’ Affleck is likable if not always blessed with the best lines of dialogue to deliver. The violence when it comes is not gratuitous though definitely wince-worthy and the City of Angels backdrop is both realistic and gritty with the depiction of street gangs authentically depressing. 

Is it a film to set your world alight, show you something you’ve never seen before and have you leaving the cinema extolling its virtues to anyone who’ll listen? Probably not but after an awards season strewn with (albeit very well done) celluloid abduction, abuse & death, it’s quite nice to go in, check your brain at the door and pick it up again 110 minutes later, refreshed & entertained.


I really enjoyed Triple 9. It is a tightly constructed, tense, action packed drama. Hope it doesn't make me too shallow to say that the cast are also pretty much universally hot!

The way the story is told takes an unusual slant though very much reminded me of things like The Shield and Sons of Anarchy or  funnily enough Shakespearian tragedy -  where there are heroes who turn out to be anti heroes etc. It's unusual to see Chiwetel Ejiofor playing a dark character and he was great as was Anthony Mackie - though they were all brill. 

Obviously, as with any action, gun toting drama you have to buy in and suspend your belief but that's exactly what i wanted. 

If you liked things like Training Day you'll like this.


John Hillcoat makes solid films that hit hard. No punches are pulled, and pain is the name of the game. Triple 9 follows the same unrelenting pattern as The Road and Lawless did before it, painting humanity in a wholly negative light but leaving just enough of a gap for some sun to trickle through now and then.

In Triple 9, Hillcoat's ode to Michael Mann's and David Ayer's LA oeuvre, plus more recent crime dramas The Wire (the HBO series) and The Town (the Ben Affleck film), a gang of outlaws/inlaws/lawmen - some are criminals, some crooked cops, some married into the same family - must carry out a series of sketchy robberies for a Jewish mafia crime queen played by Kate Winslet. But things get all mixed up when crew members die, disappear, or get into disputes with the local Mexican cartel residents of downtown Atlanta.

Winslet's is by far the best character in the film and the actress gives a captivating performance as a truly despicable human being running everyone else into the ground, and relishing in the act. Chitiwel Ejiofor is solid and impresses with his accent, but the rest of the gang, especially Anthony Mackie, Casey Affleck, and Aaron Paul, seem to be straight up phoning it in. On speed dial. Just repeating a role they've done before, again, but faster, in order to push things along. Many faces are forced through cookie cutters to fit into the running time, which is minuscule given the sheer size of the story writer Matt Cook is trying to tell. A mini-series would have worked, but a pared down story would have worked even better. Woody Harrelson's dirty cop, though probably the most typecast and predictable of the lot, was actually a joy to watch. And then there's Michael K. Williams (known better as his characters Chalky White and Omar), who has an absolutely hilarious role as a cross dressing hooker. 

Triple 9 is an overfilled sandwich of cop vs criminal underworld thrillers - it is about four films in one, and is never a boring watch though at times it can make for a confusing one. 


Great cast - but really fails to be a satisfying film. There is little clarity in plot or dialogue.