Ex-Special Forces member Michael Atwood (Chiwetel Ejiofor) leads a crew of corrupt police officers and former soldiers (Anthony Mackie, Clifton Collins Jr., Aaron Paul and Norman Reedus) in a daring bank robbery that ends in a frenzied freeway shootout. As Detective Sergeant Jeffrey Allen (Woody Harrelson) investigates the spectacular crime, he is unaware that his own nephew, straight-arrow cop Chris Allen (Casey Affleck) has unknowingly been partnered with one of the robbers on Atlanta's gang task force. When ruthless Russian-Israeli mob boss Irina Vlaslov (Kate Winslet) strong-arms the crew into attempting one last, seemingly impossible robbery, they decide their best hope is to divert the entire police force's attention by staging a 999 incident - cop code for "officer down."
Review by Louise Keller:
A cross between a gritty police procedural and a heist movie, Triple 9 boasts a terrific cast and sense of being there, but falls down by its confusing plot. Director John Hillcoat takes the mis-en-scene approach with hand-held camera work, a tense soundscape and tight close ups to develop the tension, although frustration seeps in when we lose sight of what is happening. This is the debut feature screenplay for Matt Cook, although it never gives the impression of delivering anything new. Reminiscent of Olivier Marchal's 2004 thriller 36 Quai des Orfvres about cops and thugs, the film feels grubby.
In the opening scenes, we meet the main players - corrupt cops playing for high stakes. We watch as a daring heist is carried out. The details are not clear, but Kate Winslet's Irina, the wife of a Russian Mafia Boss, orchestrates one last heist in order to obtain documents stored in an FBI vault to enable the release of her incarcerated husband. Chiwetel Ejiofor's Michael Atwood, a former military man seemingly has no choice in the matter - Irina's sister is the mother of his young son Felix. There is little personal information about any of the other characters except that Casey Affleck's clean-cut, always-chewing cop Chris Allen happens to be related to Woody Harrelson's head of the major crime's unit Detective Jeffrey Allen, whose slightly offbeat humour offers the film its greatest individuality.
Thematically dark as well as by its grim execution, the plan is to set up Affleck's, character as the patsy. By calling a Triple 9, the cops will be granted additional time to work their plan. But nothing goes to plan and we just have to sit it out patiently waiting for the inevitable outcome. It's a disappointing outing for Hillcoat, whose earlier films Ghosts.. of the Civil Dead, The Proposition, The Road and Lawless offered individuality and promise - this one is simply dark, overworked and rather dull.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
If you followed John Hillcoat's career since he made his feature debut with Ghosts ... Of the Civil Dead in 1988, you'd know he is attracted to tough, violent material, such as The Proposition (2005), The Road (2009), Lawless (2012) and now Triple 9. He is an accomplished director, sure of how to make the most of his screenplay and his cast - which is always hand picked and ideally suited, although I would quibble about his choice of Kate Winslet for the Russian Jewish mob wife, Irina Vlaslov. Winslet is a terrific actress but this role does not suit her.
On the other hand, Casey Affleck, the all too often overlooked brother of Ben, is a phenomenal talent, as he showed in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007), directed by Australia's Andrew Dominik. His minimalist performance here amidst the drama and chaos and violence is a work of inspiration. Chiwetel Ejiofor, Andrew Mackie, Clifton Collins Jr, Woody Harrelson (as edgy as ever) and all the others are outstanding in a film that has many derivative elements but overcomes them with sheer energy and pace.
The story of corrupt cops working for a Russian gangster (via the gangster's wife) to pull of a crucial heist that is not so much about cash but information, has much to recommend it. It gets a little untidy at the end, but we are too busy with the action to notice.
Without his usual musical accomplice, Nick Cave, Hillcoat relies on a quartet of composers who serve the film's dangerous mood with strong, percussive cues and pacey rhythms.
With all that talent and all that tension, the film should bore into our psyche, but the film has caught a malaise that affects so many Hollywood productions: dialogue blur. This is a result of a combo of speech mannerisms and accents, making a perfect storm with a sound mix that doesn't favour the dialogue. It is frustrating, and it makes us all detectives, trying to piece together the nuances of the story and characters from the clues we can see and those we can hear in some of the spoken words.
Email this article
TRIPLE 9 (MA15+)
CAST: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Anthony Mackie, Michael Kenneth Williams, Clifton Collins Jr, Teresa Palmer, Gal Gadot, Kate Winslet, Aaron Paul, Casey Affleck, Norman Reedus, Woody Harrelson
PRODUCER: Marc Butan, Bard Dorros, Anthony Katagas, Keith Redmon, Christopher Woodrow
DIRECTOR: John Hillcoat
SCRIPT: Matt Cook
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Nicolas Karakatsanis
EDITOR: Dylan Tichenor
MUSIC: Bobby Krlic, Atticus Ross, Leopold Ross, Claudia Sarne
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Tim Grimes
RUNNING TIME: 115 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 3, 2016