Triple 9 Review
"Triple 9 means 'officer down' or 'police needs help urgently' "
Director John Hillcoat (Lawless) is known for his 'no-holds-barred' style of communicating the message of criminals and the police that pursue them. How real do people want their cinematic experience to be?
The police drama continues to offer new and exciting considerations for movie goers. The challenge for film makers throughout cinematic history has been to determine has been how far to take things in the realm of language, violence and atmosphere of these crime fighters. Determining the balance between realism and caricature, filmmakers have to choose how real viewers want their crime fighting experiences.
If you want realism, Triple 9 delivers it like a roundhouse punch in the stomach. It is an exceptionally raw depiction of law enforcement in the city of Atlanta. The focus is on the planning of two heists, the individuals involved on both sides of the law and those who blur the lines of justice. Michael (Chiwetel Ejiofor) heads up a band of thieves who are on their final job for the Russian Mafia. Within the mix of bandits are dirty cops who assist in the process by providing the insider information to be one step ahead of the police. All seems to be going well, but things take a turn for the worse for this well-trained troupe. In desperation, they resolve to stage a triple nine, which in police lingo means the shooting of a police officer. This rash act was meant to buy them time to perform a seemingly impossible theft. The unexpected flaw in their plan is the choice of target for their shooting, Chris Allen (Casey Affleck). As a seasoned officer and former Marine, he does not prove to be an easy mark. His instincts and self-awareness cause turmoil for the malicious mob, forcing many twists and turns along the way.
Travelling through the muck and mire of Atlanta's world of organised crime brings on a sensation of being showered with an abundance of filth without any hope of getting clean. This true-to-life experience is brought about by John Hillcoat’s direction. His style is powerful, but after awhile it begins to feel like multiple blows to the face. From the opening credits to the final scene, Triple 9 provides a dire look into law enforcement and yields little to no hope for justice. The strength of the direction is built on well written characters that find themselves in relentless cycles of depravity. Some of the highlights are found in Chiwetel Ejiofor's portrayal of a man attempting to get out from under the tyrannical influence of Russian Mafia leader, Irina Vaslov (Kate Winslet) and Woody Harrelson's mumbling delivery which successfully captures the essence of the jaded detective captain. All of these roles remain in the realm of the dark and hopeless, except for the one glimmer of hope that is seen in Casey Affleck's character, who seems to be a fish out of water throughout the film. He is flawed, but manages to operate from a position of justice until the end. His character is trivialized and mocked for his judicious resolve, which causes him to be is underestimated by most of those around him. The performances are exceptional even though the tale is tragically depressing on a multitude of levels.
The direction, acting and writing of Triple 9 deserve praise, but the serendipitous feeling of the film is the undoing of the tale. The conclusion becomes jumbled mayhem. Triple 9 begins by conveying a reality to the cinematic experience, but in attempting to tie off all of the loose ends, overreaches the realities of the familiar law enforcement storyline.