Sunday 21 February 2016

Review: Triple 9

Year: 2016
Director: John Hillcoat
Screenplay: Matt Cook
Starring: Casey Affleck, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Anthony Mackie, Aaron Paul, Clifton Collins, Jr., Norman Reedus, Teresa Palmer, Michael K. Williams, Gal Gadot, Woody Harrelson, Kate Winslet

Synopsis is here:

Triple 9 was unfortunate enough to catch the brunt of angry, entitled cinema goers when it was selected as February’s secret screenings. Some people in the audience decided that the film would be Deadpool despite the fact there was no evidence of this being the case. Ignorant tweets, walkouts and fantums ensued. Needless to say, secret screening does not mean advanced screening of the film you chose in your head.

It’s no surprise that a film like Triple 9 would be picked for such an event. John Hillcoat’s grimy thriller holds effective components and a substantial cast, yet appears in February with little fanfare. A film like Triple 9 can easily get lost when being released in at the same time as a film so aggressively marketed as Deadpool. So to see it come out a little earlier than stated would possibly allow some word of mouth to aid it.

One wonders if Triple 9 got a little boost from its secret screening. Did the word of mouth get any higher than “it was alright.”? Triple 9 has all the ingredients of being an exemplary heist movie, but it never quite gets there. Of course, watching a film like this has you recall the films of Michael Mann or relatively recent fare such as Ben Affleck’s The Town (2010). But while The Town pulsates with its meaty set pieces and the likes of Heat (1995) throbs with the beating hearts of the inner lives of the professionals, Triple 9 merely goes about its way. The film hints at a murky world of desperation, but does little in delving deeper. It’s setting of Atlanta, Georgia is perfect, as is the multi-ethnic cast, which suggests notions of class and racial strife.

Something seems to get lost in the edit. There seems to be more to this story that the theatrical cut is not telling us. Triple 9 starts out intriguingly with its opening detailing dirty Russian mobster money flowing through a dense metropolitan capital. The backstory we do get from certain characters looks to suggest compelling dynamics. There’s at least three separate collections of family ties that could be explored.

While Triple 9 slumps towards a relatively conventional and slightly rushed conclusion, John Hillcoat certainly makes sure that the cast and crew deliver from a cosmetic level. Cinematography from Nicolas Karakatsanis in drenched in dark covering shadows and warning sign reds. The film’s set pieces are effective in their execution and despite some clear trimming of their characters, the ample cast doesn't stumble. They play up to the sense of desperation the narrative tries to develop.
Triple 9 doesn’t deliver anything new or of substance, but John Hillcoat does provide an enjoyable heist feature that I would have happily sat through on a free secret screening.