Triple 9 DVD Review

Triple 9 DVD Review
4.0Overall Score

Triple 9’s director, John Hillcoat – the man responsible for gritty and grim films such as The Proposition and The Road – has almost pulled off his best film to date. He’s nearly elevated a formulaic heist story into another grim, oppressive fever dream of a movie. It’s a shame because despite the well-established fever dream atmosphere and the help of some top drawer acting from Kate Winslet, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Casey Affleck, Triple 9 is ultimately an entertaining yet emotionally hollow film.

The plot follows a bank robbery crew consisting of two ex-military men, Terrell (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Russell (Norman Reedus), Russell’s brother, Gabe (Aaron Paul) a former police officer, and two actual police officers, Marcus (Anthony Mackie) and Jorge (Clifton Collins Jr.). The crew are tasked with performing one last job for an Israeli mob boss, Irina (Kate Winslet), who wants to get her husband out of jail. And pulling off one last seemingly impossible heist will bring her one step closer to doing that. But the crew can’t just say no, as Terrell’s son is being held captive by Irina.

To pull off the heist, the crew think of the idea of calling for a triple nine incident (“officer down”) which will distract the police. The fall guy is Chris (Casey Affleck) who’s just switched divisions much to the disdain of his Uncle Jeffery (Woody Harrelson).

From here, double crosses are aplenty and the film performs these with such intensity and harshness that at one point it was a don’t-look-at-the-screen-moment. This shocking harshness is something that keeps the films edgy atmosphere intact throughout.

A hallmark of good filmmaking is the fact that Hillcoat has struck a tone and never lets it ease. It is less a sibling of past heist films like Heat or Inside Man and more akin to the dark tone of serial killer thriller, Se7en, or the more recent drug cartel thriller, Sicario.

The atmosphere is also fed with an electronic and pulsating score from and Atticus Ross which reaps echoes of his work with director David Fincher.

However, the film’s atmosphere can only keep the audiences watching for a while, because the real reason you want to stay in this insidious dank world is because of the performances. Standouts are Ejiofor and Affleck. Despite being a villain, Ejiofor makes his character feel more rounded, with him striking a balance between being a strong and broken anti-hero, while Affleck is given the hard task of making his character interesting enough to root for despite his character’s lack of strong motivation or flaws. But he rightfully chooses to play him as the average guy hurled into almost impossible odds. It makes his character feel like the audience: plunged into a world they’re not ready for.

All the other performances were strong but some cast members were underused, especially Winslet, who seems to be having fun playing a mobster but isn’t given much meat to chew on, when she does appear, the tension ratchets up further.

And the tension is high throughout, all the way through to the films resolution which unfortunately falls a tad flat. The reason for that is more to do with the script’s flaws, rather than Hillcoat and his actors. By the end, none of the characters’ motivations for doing the things they have done feel strong enough, and the only character – Terrell – who did have a strong motivation was almost brushed aside.

If Triple 9 had more depth to its characters – because it’s the only thing lacking in this film – it could have stood up there, head and shoulders above Hillcoat’s previous work but unfortunately, it sits back down to mess in the dirt of his other work. But that’s no bad thing, because Triple 9 loves playing in its own dirt, and it’s certainly a gripping watch.

About The Author

It all started at the age of 14 when people started asking: 'what happened to Michael?' Well, he saw Barton Fink and realised: films can be good! Ever since, he has held a serious film critic look on his face, and has enjoyed analysing and digesting as many films as possible (mainly on a Coen brothers and David Lynch diet). Basically, he has come to the conclusion freelance film journalism is his cup of tea. For any enquiries, Michael currently resides in the Red Room with a dancing dwarf.

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