There’s a joy to watching heist films that felt so stunningly absent while Triple 9 was going on. Remember how expertly crafted the tension can be at least when done so perfectly under the hands of Michael Mann, Jean-Pierre Melville, or Jules Dassin when they were directing Heat, Le Cercle Rouge, or Rififi? Try to imagine any of those three films which I’ve mentioned without the suspense that kept everyone at the edge of their seat, and within no time, you’ll have whatever it was that Triple 9 was offering. Admittedly, you have two fantastic heist sequences setting the bar for the film, but my only wish was that John Hillcoat, whose own body of work I haven’t particularly been the most fond of, had chosen to handle them in a manner it would really stick within my head.
You start with one fantastic heist sequence, which draws back to the lengthy shootout scene from Michael Mann’s Heat, but where’s the motivation behind any of it? It seems as if John Hillcoat shows one thing, and instead of properly establishing it, his own choice is to keep everything down there without really leaving a viewer like myself wanting to care for any of the conflict which I had been perceiving out of the film. Now given the subject that we have and what themes could have potentially been explored such as the psychology of corrupted police officials, it seems as if John Hillcoat is only leaving them all out, hence wasting what Triple 9 could have been.
While I do love the cast that has been built up, Casey Affleck out of everyone steals the spotlight. There’s a highly admirable amount of talent that can be found right from Affleck’s many performances and no matter what the quality of the film may be, the films can usually find themselves at their most interesting when you consider what he’s displaying on the screen. It’s such a shame that for how great Casey Affleck is, most of the cast is dreadfully hit-or-miss. Chiwetel Ejiofor, Woody Harrelson, and Aaron Paul for instance, are rather gifted actors but it feels like their talented is suffocated by a sea of averageness. Kate Winslet and Gal Gadot in particular, I had great difficulty buying, whether it range from their Russian accents or mainly, the way their characters were written.
The biggest problems that we have here come from the screenplay. Dialogue just sounds rather average for the most part, but the structuring never really seems to flow in a cohesive manner, and within due time, I had been thrown off the course of Triple 9‘s flow. Whether it arise from the needless introduction of an unnecessary subplot or the multitude of characters whom we never really get so much of a means to connect with, Triple 9 comes off as an overly convoluted crime drama that doesn’t have any idea where it wants to go, other than the fact that you know it’s clearly borrowing from much better films which obviously had inspired it.
While I do love a good crime drama, what I can’t find myself getting into is a film that can’t really do much in order to make me care for the motives that were going to linger around, for I don’t suspect John Hillcoat were really going to explore any of it. The cast is decent, with Casey Affleck standing out amongst all the bunch, but it’s merely a case of wasted potential. I’d best suggest that you’d be much better off watching films like Rififi, Heat, or Le Cercle Rouge, because those are the kinds of heist films that provide the joy that Triple 9 ultimately had been lacking as it went on.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Open Road Films.
Directed by John Hillcoat
Screenplay by Matt Cook
Produced by Keith Redmon, Bard Dorros, Marc Butan, Anthony Katagas, Christopher Woodrow, John Hillcoat
Starring Casey Affleck, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Anthony Mackie, Aaron Paul, Clifton Collins, Jr., Norman Reedus, Woody Harrelson, Kate Winslet, Gal Gadot, Teresa Palmer
Release Year: 2016
Running Time: 115 minutes