Aussie director John Hillcoat has been moving from strength to strength ever since he broke-out with the riveting revenge-western The Proposition. His next two films, The Road and Lawless showed a lot of promise, but were never quite able to rise up to anything particularly great. With his latest film though, Hillcoat delivers his most entertaining work yet. And while it certainly isn’t without it’s flaws, at it’s best, Triple 9 functions as an absorbing and exceedingly gripping crime-thriller.
The story goes something like this, There’s a band of dirty cops led by two former private military contractors Michael Antwood (Chiwetel Ejiofer) and Jorge Rodriguez (Clifton Collins Jr.) who are indebted to the Russian mob and have to pull off a heist that will supposedly even the score. They soon realize that the only way that they are going to have enough time to do this without interference from the cops is if they pull a 999, which is the police code for an officer down and they know that every police officer in the city will converge on that point which will give them the time they need to pull off their heist.
Dirty cops, Russian mobsters and cops trying to bring down the dirty cops, all intervene to create a gritty and pretty brutal heist flick that managed to keep me compelled even during its weaker moments. Hillcoat does a great job behind the camera and he’s able to craft a film that has some really great energy and dynamism to it. The action-sequences in particular are superbly crafted and Hillcoat is also able to do that all too rare thing of making the backdrop, in this case, the city of Atlanta, a character of it’s own. And as a result you have a film that’s bleeding with intensity at nearly every turn.
Now the film isn’t without it’s flaws, and the most notable ones come from Matt Cook’s largely middling screenplay. While Cook does a pretty decent job with the story and even most of the dialogue, he isn’t always able to maintain a consistency when it comes to developing characters and as a result, many the film’s talented cast isn’t utilized to their full potential and a lot of the performances just don’t stick.
Aaron Paul for example, is one very talented actor who is simply wasted in a throwaway role. Norman Reedus doesn’t have enough time on-screen, while Clifton Collins Jr.’s performance feels too out of place. But I guess the worst performance, by a stretch comes Kate Wintslet who hams it up in her cartoonish and over-the-top turn as Russian-Jewish mobster Irina Vlaslov. Undoubtedly the frontrunner for worst movie accent of the year.
But on the plus side, Chiwetel Ejiofer and Casey Affleck are superb as film’s two leads, both of whom are on the opposite sides of morality. Woody Harrelson and Anthony Mackie are solid as well, even though they feel like they are channeling performances they have already given in other films.
Altogether, Triple 9 is a pretty engaging crime-thriller which I had a pretty engaging time watching. Director John Hillcoat infuses the film with a fantastic sense of edginess and intensity that serves as a great canvas to deliver this story. The performances are mostly good and the script is solid as well. Among the few films that have come out this year, Triple 9 is definitely one of the better ones.