IN CINEMAS NOW
RUNNING TIME: 115 min
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
Rookie cop Chris Allen gets assigned to work with streetwise detective Marcus Atwood. Unfortunately, Atwood is part of a bank robbing crew of corrupt police officers. Their boss is Irina Vlaslov, the wife of a Russian mob boss. In order to secure her husband’s release from one of Putin’s prisons, she orders the team to steal documents that are going to be stored for a single day in an FBI vault in Atlanta….otherwise they will be executed. In order to keep the forces of law and order off their backs during the raid, they come up with the cunning plan of killing an officer in another other part of the city, thus drawing police attention from the vault, but they’ve reckoned without Allen and Allen’s uncle, Sgt Jeffrey Allen, who believes that the good guys should: “Out-monster the monsters”….
A film from the director of The Road and The Proposition is always an exciting prospect, though, much his gangster drama Lawless, crime thriller Triple 9 never quite becomes as good as you think it’s going to get. It’s most definitely a decent watch though, with strong tension throughout that never really lets go, something aided immensely by the menacing semi-techno of Bobby Krlic, Atticus Ross, Leopold Ross and Claudia Sarne’s score, and fine performances by its cast, ignoring Kate Winslet’s dodgy Russian accent, though the script has so many people vying for screen time that some of them get short shrift. I especially wanted to spend more time with Woody Harrelson’s most eccentric character in some time, and one feels that the film was drastically cut down to fit under a two hour running time, with some elements, such as a Mexican drug cartel, which just disappear from the narrative. The film is made so interesting and yet so frustrating because pretty much all of its characters seem to be playing out their own story, but many of these stories just seem to be playing out in the background. Still, Casey Affleck and Chiwetel Ejiofor are highly compelling in the two main roles; the archetypal idealistic rookie cop, and the bad guy who becomes sympathetic as the story progresses and we learn more about the situation he’s in.
Matt Cook’s screenplay keeps the viewer intrigued in how things are going to pan out, though it requires both one of its bad guys, who seems almost determined to give himself away, and its hero, who is very slow on the uptake, to be rather stupid, and the whole thing ends incredibly abruptly. Not every film needs a coda which tidies everything up, but it really feels as if the last five minutes have been lopped off Triple 9. Still, John Hillcot gives us some solid shootouts, car chases and heists, and, while he unfortunately goes in for shakycam, he doesn’t go overboard with it, and the sequences are still fairly clear to make out. There’s plenty of blood too, while cinematographer Nicolas Karakatsanis likes to bathe character’s faces in red light too [well, most of them do seem to have blood on their hands] in what is quite a fine looking film, almost neo-noir at times, despite its overall gritty,raw aesthetic. It would like to be Heat, Training Day or even The French Connection, and falls well short of these ambitions, but it’s still thoroughly enjoyable, if tough, effort in its own right. Despite its flaws, Hillcot has nothing really to be ashamed of here. Certain events actually took me by surprise, while I feel that a longer director’s cut may improve his film considerably.