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Triple 9 – Review


Release Date: 26 February 2016 [USA]
Director: John Hillcoat
Writer: Matt Cook
Cast: Casey Affleck - Chiwetel Ejiofor - Anthony Mackie



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Posted February 25, 2016 by

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Triple 9 Review:

A team of expert criminals are tasked with a heist that requires distracting the cops for a significant amount of time. They decide the best way to do so is to kill a cop. Meanwhile their employer, an Israeli-Russian mobster, begins applying increasing pressure. Also, the criminals are mostly cops too.

Triple 9 begins grippingly with a broad daylight bank robbery that ends in a dye-choked highway shootout. Afterwards, things slow down and one of Triple 9’s largest problems is clear; the drama can’t compete with the action.

The cast is impressive and it’s a crying shame these great players had such mediocre material to work with. Most of them give it their best anyway. Ejiofor brings his gusto for which he has become known. His Michael Belmont is the most sympathetic of the criminals, his son being a nephew/quasi-hostage to their mobster boss Vlaslov. Despite this investment, Belmont’s brutality is monstrous (explosive ankle bracelet) and it greatly undermines our care for his character. Another problem with Triple 9; hardly anyone to completely root for.

Concerning characters; Mackie’s, Reedus’ and Affleck’s are all underdeveloped, Paul’s Gabe is an even more incompetent spin on Jesse Pinkman and Harrelson admirably struggles with his plot-device detective complete with OTT substance abuse. Most disappointing of all is Kate Winslet. The idea of her playing a villain had certainly grabbed attention. While she looks the part of mobster matriarch Irina Vlaslov, her performance lacks impact. She wears an evil disinterest when looking over bloody pleading corpses-to-be but it’s a pity she wears that same disinterest to every other scene regardless of what is going on. The best performance and character comes from Clifton Collins Jr. His moonlighting homicide detective Rodriguez is a well-dressed noir package, highly professional and incredibly insidious. He would make a terrific villain but again, you are never certain over who to root for.

There is ample evidence of a detailed back story and character histories but it is poorly revealed and piecemeal, leaving you to figure things out when you should be enjoying the show. The visual hints that are present are condescending. It seems every item in Affleck’s house has U.S.M.C. etched on it. Winslet wears gilded Stars of David whilst bracketed by two huge thugs sporting Kippahs (Jewish, we get it.) Inexplicable character outbursts and big plot holes abound. Most annoyingly, several major characters are offed very unceremoniously, leaving several opportunities for good drama wasted. There may have been exciting concepts to begin with around the writers table but nothing by the movie’s end has been tied tightly together, assuming you’re still paying attention. The final act lingers longer than The Return of the King, and that was an epic.

Scoring some points back, John Hillcoat does have an eye for style. His Atlanta projects are wretched and hostile dens of inequity. The Wrath of God must be coming any day now. The action scenes are terrifically sustained. Affleck’s anti-gang squad clear tenements room by room while machine-pistols are fired blindly around corners. The sight of a baby, mid diaper change, while a gunman may or may not be a few feet away is a heart-stopping scenario. While the much built-up final heist does not last very long, the criminal’s subduing of the security guards is horrific. “What would the Joker do?” is a thought bound to have crossed Matt Cook’s mind at one point or another.

Lastly, keep an eye out for a brilliant cameo from Michael Kenneth Williams.

Triple 9 can’t do compelling, cohesive drama but it boasts numerous great action scenes, unflinching and gasp-inducing. The characters are weak and at times nonsensical but they are strongly performed, in the case of Ejiofor and Harrelson. Ultimately, Triple 9 falls short of reaching The Town’s level or that of the true genre pro, Heat.


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Written by:


Michael Keyes
Silences Band
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