#REVIEW: “TRIPLE 9”
We’ve seen our share of heist films, but what makes Triple 9 from Director John Hillcoat (The Road, Lawless) stand out is the caliber of talent he is working with. Names like Kate Winslet, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Norman Reedus, Aaron Paul, Anthony Mackie and Casey Affleck normally on their own are enough to fill a theatre, but combined, the starpower is infinite. One part violent heist, one part like Scorcese‘s The Departed, the Action-Thriller explores the idea of corruption within corruption… and then some.
Triple 9 centers on a band of ruthless criminals and corrupt police officers led by Michael Belmont (Chiwetel Ejiofor) whom after barely making it out one heist, are tasked with a near-impossible mission by Russian Mobstress Irina Vaslov (Kate Winslet). Bountiful riches are at stake for the dwindling band if they succeed and a horrible fate awaits if they fail.
Chris Allen (Casey Affleck) is a rookie cop paired with the crooked Marcus Atwood (Anthony Mackie) to keep safe the thug-ladden streets, but little does he know that he will be used as a pawn in the impending heist. The plan is to bring an officer down, diverting police attention, while the heist takes place. And hence the name Triple 9.
Internal tension mounts after one of the band members is killed. Disgraced cop Gabe Welch‘s (Aaron Paul) world unravels and soon spirals out of control, triggering a bloody ripple effect which threatens to foil the ambitious heist.
While Hillcoat succeeds at building the momentum and keeping us guessing, aided greatly by the sublime scoring from Aticus Ross (House of Cards, The Social Network). While certainly intense, ultimately Triple 9 lacks that element of hunger to keep us enthralled in the chase. We simply don’t feel that deep desire in these characters in what should be a gut-wrenching fight for their lives and fortunes. Instead at times we feel inundated by multiple running plot lines, which in turn affects the pacing of the Film.
At the heart of the story are familial relations – a major driving force in the plot. Irina and her sister Elena (Gal Gadot) have a tense dynamic, their relationship controlled mostly by the former, including visitation of the latter’s child by Michael. Reporting directly to Irina, an almost-incestuous tangled web is weaved with a thick cloud of distrust dangling overhead. We have also Jeffrey Allen (Woody Harrelson), a loose, drug-loving senior detective and rookie Chris (our moral compass) whom despite having a brotherly mentor-student relationship, are on complete opposite ends of the spectrum despite sharing a surname. Brothers Gabe and Russel (Norman Reedus) are solid together, but we witness the former’s demise without his brother.
Triple 9 is packed with some fantastic performances, highlighted by Ejiofor and Mackie, who disappear completely into this dark world of corruption. They never quite give it all away and that keeps us digging deeper and wanting to know more about their backstories. The same also can be said about Paul who tries something completely different here as the vulnerable and broken Gabe. We admit we are a bit baffled by do-no-wrong Winslet‘s casting, giving it her all but still unconvincing at times as the unflinchingly and icy Irina. Harrelson is pitch-perfect as Jeffrey Allen, perfectly in his element in a role almost tailored for him. The most jaw-dropping performance is Michael K. Williams’ blink-and-miss turn as transexual Sweet Pea. Divine.
While a little shaky on some fronts, Triple 9 is driven by some fascinating characters and performances. Elevation Pictures release TRIPLE 9 on Friday, February 26, 2016.