A crime thriller that's as commonplace as they come, despite the admirable efforts of both director and cast, Triple 9 is the cinematic equivalent of hot air being slowly let out of a bag, only the air's been in the bag so long it's barely even room temperature by now. You know how Triple 9 ends almost as soon as it's begun, and John Hillcoat's sensitive direction only accentuates the disappointment - he contributes a stylistic flair reminiscent of similar American films from the 1970s, alongside a verisimilitude reminiscent of the best TV crime dramas; when your reference points are Serpico and The Wire, basically, you're doomed regardless of the quality of the script, and Matt Cook's is unimaginative and uninteresting. It's too sketchy to truly satisfy as pulp, and too derivative to qualify as high art, and Triple 9 must thus get by on whatever Hillcoat and his cast can salvage from this threadbare content. The former is on fine form, in fact, relishing the three opportunities he has to show what he's capable of, and the film's three main action sequences are excellently staged, and benefit enormously from Dylan Tichenor's great editing. The cast list spills over with A-list talent, some more talented than others, naturally; best are those playing against type, thereby reaping more from their roles as they search deeper within them and make the most of this chance to show off a little - Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kate Winslet and, briefly, Michael Kenneth Williams are standouts (in Williams' case, however, one must bemoan the persistent lack of trans representation in the film industry if they can't even get hired to play trans characters). Bits and pieces keep Triple 9 afloat, then, since they're all that this film amounts to anyway.