By Adam Guy
Directed: John Hillcoat
Starring: Casey Affleck, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Anthony Mackie, Woody Harrelson, Aaron Paul, Kate Winslet, Norman Reedus
I remember the first time I saw Heat. Specifically, that scene where De Niro and Pacino are sat opposite each other drinking coffee and explaining just how surprisingly similar and fucked up their lives are, as if they were old friends. They then happily acknowledge that they wouldn’t hesitate to kill each other if it comes to it, which eventually it obliviously does. The scene is slow and purposeful. It raises an already good film to something truly special. In a lot of ways Triple 9 is a similar film to Heat. It’s a crime thriller with a cast of famous faces playing smart criminals and streetwise cops with blurred moral lines. On paper is has all the components to make it a stand out film. Only it’s not.
Set in Atlanta, Georgia. Triple 9 opens with four men, two of whom are cops, robbing a bank for a safety deposit box. It’s a familiar but strong opening which leaves you hopeful for what might come next. Once the deposit box is given to Jewish Russian mafia boss’ wife Irina (played by Kate Winslet) they are then forcefully convinced to do one more heist. The plan they devise involves killing a police officer, which is apparently codenamed a 999, as a way of distracting the rest of the force while the men make their final hit.
The cast includes Aaron Paul as the fuck up of a younger brother to Norman Reedus. Casey Affleck as the good cop who’s new to the division and who no one likes. Anthony Mackie as the manipulative corrupt cop, and Woody Harrelson as the unpredictable but talented detective. Other than Woody Harrelson trying a bit hard to show how quirky his character is, and Casey Affleck’s slightly distracting and over enthusiastic use of chewing gum, the cast do a good job. The dark lighting and moody tones suit this style of film. And while the story progression is well structured it somehow still seems to lack any sense of imminence, and there are very few moments that evoke the kind of tension that a film like this relies on. So even though all the parts are there. In a similar way to the two previous films by director John Hillcoat, there’s a sense that Triple 9 doesn’t quite equal the sum of those parts. It’s as if it’s trying so hard to emulate the look and style of crime thrillers like Heat that it never has time to understand what can make that kind of film so special.
Watch the trailer: