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Triple 9 Review

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Taking cues from heist thrillers of years past, John Hilcoat follows up 2012’s Lawless with the incredibly grim and inventive Triple 9, bringing with him an all star ensemble cast, including Chiwetel Ejiofor, Casey Affleck, Anthony Mackie, Aaron Paul, Woody Harrelson, and Kate Winslet, for this tale of corrupt cops and Russian gangsters all wrapped up in murky going ons in the seedy underworld of Atlanta.


Kicking off with a tense and stylish bank heist, complete with nods to Heat, we’re thrown into the deep end as noble thief Mike Belmont (Ejiofor) and his highly trained crew of crooked cops and ex-speical forces (with Mackie and Paul rubbing shoulders with Norman Reeds and Clifton Collins Jr.) find their latest job, which ended with a searing shoot out on a busy freeway, isn’t enough for their Russian gangster benefactors, led by the fierce Irina (Kate Winslet). Blackmailed into taking on a challenging heist on a government building, the crew hit on the idea of committing a 999 (code for the death of a police officer) to provide the ultimate distraction, which doesn’t bode well for Affleck’s newly transferred rookie.

One thing you can’t fault Triple 9 for is the action scenes, with Hilcoat weaving some tense, realistic set pieces in between the narrative that carries the movie through with a fantastic momentum, from the aforementioned shoot out to a blood pumping raid on a dangerous gang members house. They go a long way to adding to the enjoyment of Triple 9, making up for the shortcomings of the main narrative. Not to say Hilcoat doesn’t make the most out of the interesting story here, but you see quite early on that there isn’t enough to fill the nearly two hour runtime. Most of the characters are painted as completely unlikable, and that is ok. Audiences have cheered for absolute bastards before, and that would have been acceptable here, but the choice to make Mike’s decision to work for Irina solely hinging on her having custody of his child, her nephew, doesn’t sit well with the rest of the movie, mainly down to the fact we’re not given enough time to really feel for Mike’s predicament. After a superb first act that sets up the story perfectly, Triple 9 begins to spin its wheels, and fatigue begins to set in, alleviated only by the odd set piece. It feels like a by numbers thriller the closer we get to the climactic heist, and drags on for another twenty minutes as every thing is tied up in a neat little package that feels too safe and easy.


The caliber of cast here means there isn’t much to fault when it comes to the acting. Ejifor, Mackie, and Affleck are given the most to do, and play their roles perfectly, even though Affleck often comes across as the generic by the book rookie. Harrelson could have been left out completely, not really adding much to proceedings (same could be said of Aaron Paul and Gal Gadot), but he has an absolute blast as the good ol’ boy detective drinking and smoking everything around him. Winslet dominates her scenes as the hard as nails Irina, taking a very familiar role and making it all her own.

A fantastic cast and some fine action direction make up for the numerous problems in Triple 9’s narrative, making for a competent crime thriller that doesn’t really scale the heights of the classics it is trying to emulate.







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The Movie Bit: Triple 9 Review
Triple 9 Review
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