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Triple 9 - The Riles Review
John Hillcoat, the Aussie born director, created the start of a film that reeked of Michael Mann’s Heat in all the right ways. It was rapid fire, the music was intense and the intro sequence was so well filmed and orchestrated it puts you right in the middle of it. Unfortunately the rest of the film doesn’t maintain the temperature of the first 15 minutes, but it still plays out with a lot of intrigue and gritty crime characters along the way.
Triple 9 tells the story of four bank robbers under duress from a Russian crime syndicate who have to pull off one more job, and the only way to do it is to call in a triple 9, an officer down. All they need to do is pick the poor guy that’s taking the hit.
So right away the film sets the scene at a frenetic pace. There’s no plot really apart from the bank being robbed, but immediately after it shows you that no one can be trusted throughout the rest of the film. The entire main story arc is riveting, twisting and turning all the way to the end. But about half an hour in, the pace starts to waiver and you find it jumps in and out of scenarios with no real sense of the time passing or what’s happening in between. Because of this the film loses some of that built up momentum that came from that initial immediacy of the bank robbery. The film also never plays out from one character’s point of view for too long, which at some points works extremely well for developing your distrust of everyone, and also keeps you on your toes for whatever happens scene by scene. However, it also deflates the ending, because you never spend enough time with anyone, the final scene plays out to quite a mediocre finale and gives it quite an abrupt and unsatisfying ending.
This would all probably kill the film if the action scenes weren’t so good. The moments of mayhem are brilliantly choreographed. When I say that it reeked of Heat, it’s in the action that these influences really shine. Everything from the sound of gunshots, to the botched getaways here and there, it’s thrilling all the way through. You really get the sense that every situation is dangerous, and could go balls up for anyone. And because the narrative forces you to feel like everyone’s a bad guy, you can’t predict the outcome of these gunfights. There’s never a prevailing force or character you can always bet on.
The characters in the film are intense, diverse and excellently portrayed. Chiwetel Ejiofor, is legendary as the leader of the criminal crew, being scary and sweet when the situation needs him to be.. His whole crew are just as good as well, my favourite being the underrated Clifton Collins Jr. He’s a great personality, especially in these seedy sorts of crime films. Kate Winslet makes a great turn as the leader of the Russian crime syndicate, even if she doesn’t get enough screen time to really flesh out her character. You know what she’s doing there and why she’s doing it, but you don’t get much more than those brief details to build her up as a proper villain.
On the other side of the law, Woody Harrelson does a stellar rendition of a shady beige suit-loving detective. He acted the shit out of that role, even through the bizarre, Freddie Mercury teeth they gave him. Casey Affleck, Woody’s nephew in the movie, is good, but out-shined by the rest of the stellar cast. The one person I desperately wanted to see more of was Michael K. Williams. He only appears for one scene, which is a shame because his character is one of the more interesting ones.
Triple 9 is one of those movies that has all the right elements in place but just doesn’t click them all together properly. I remember seeing Broken City a couple of years ago, and thinking the exact same thing(how can you not make a good movie with Marky Mark and Russell Crowe as your leads?). But Triple 9 doesn’t fall as hard down that hole. It has great elements, but just a few too many moments that seem to settle for good instead. When it works, it works very well, with moments of pure awesome scattered throughout. It has great characters and some truly brilliant action set pieces, but just not enough to sustain the 115 minute run time.