Triple 9 takes place on the streets of Atlanta, GA. This crime, cop, heist film is everything and nothing all at the same time.
It’s a good-looking film and at times can be visually exhausting, but director John Hillcoat didn’t see it that way. I enjoyed Triple 9 for the most part, but its all-star cast struggle to cram a three-hour story into 1 hour and 55 minutes.
In Triple 9, the Atlanta police like to have their cake and eat it too. Cops Marcus Belmont (Anthony Mackie) and Franco Rodriguez (Clifton Collins Jr.) moonlight as bank robbers for their friend Michael Atwood (Chiwetel Ejiofor), with junkie Gabe Welch (Ryan Paul) and his brother Russell Welch (Norman Reedus) rounding out the Triple 9 hit team. The team is working for a high-powered Russian-Jewish mafiosa Irina Vlaslov, who need some very important documents stolen in order to ensure her husband is released from prison. Those plans get botched up once rookie detective Chris Allen (Casey Affleck) gets into the mix and all hell breaks loose. With Atlanta’s top detective Jeffery Allen (Uncle of Chris Allen, played by Woody Harrelson), events shrouded on mystery will be revealed for all to see.
First, I want to address why I mentioned the film Sicario in comparison to Triple 9 in the title. I referenced director Denis Villeneuve’s Sicario, NOT because Triple 9 is necessarily a better film (because it is not), but it certainly felt more authentic.
ScreenRant thinks Triple 9 plays out like The Departed, but I think Triple 9 is Sicario lite. Triple 9 is similar to Sicario in many ways but they differ in just how dank the world of drugs, money, and corruption really is. Director John Hillcoat has a way of bringing out a gritty rawness that is easy to relate to and identify with — something I felt was lacking from Sicario.
The all-star cast in Triple 9 is phenomenal. They really give their all in these performances, but they just needed more story, more dialogue, and more time. The stand-out star here is Kate Winslet who is deliciously villainous. Not since her role in Heavenly Creatures have I seen Winslet so evil. I hope to see her as a protagonist more often (and no, The Divergent series does not count).
Woody Harrelson added some quick and funny one-liners to a film that is so heavy and dark in substance. Harrelson works perfectly in Triple 9, and seems to have really mastered the cop/detective trope.
The other cast members deliver great performances as well, but probably didn’t get the screen time they should have. Even the extras were fantastic. It seems like Hillcoat really took the Atlanta neighborhoods to provide that surrounding authenticity.
John Hillcoat’s direction for Triple 9 is top-notch. He has directed some of my favorite films including The Proposition and The Road, so Triple 9 retains that grainy yet real-world look on the environment setting. He knows how to bring together the right factors to create realistic settings. The editing on the other half is very strange in Triple 9. Editing isn’t a subject I normally discuss, but it irritated me. It added to the feeling of the film being rushed as important scenes seemed to be cut off in order to rush to the next subplot.
Now AV Club gives Triple 9 a decent rating at B- and I agree with their reasoning for this rating. This film is messy. Just when the audience think they have gotten to know just about everyone, here comes another character that the audience have to figure out where they belong. There are too many scenarios in Triple 9 that were left open-ended where I personally would have liked further expansion. If the film had another hour added to it, it may have fared better in terms of story-telling.
[Image via Open Road Films]