Australian director John Hillcoat’s Triple 9 is a dark and dense Michael Mann-ish crime drama filled with criminals and crooked cops. There’s double-crossing galore in this modern noir, which sees the likes of Casey Affleck, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Aaron Paul, Anthony Mackie, Gal Gadot, Kate Winslet and Woody Harrelson spit out hard-boiled dialogue.
Hillcoat’s film is a heavy, gritty piece and the so-called good guys are as bad as the villains. There’s no black or white, just misty shades of blood red as everyone in the movie has their own agenda. Matt Cook’s script has a lot of beats and a layered texture which make the Michael Mann comparisons obvious, however Mann’s movies also have an inherent sense of honour woven into their core. No such thing exists in the world of Triple 9; just a bleak sense of sweaty self-preservation. To quote Bruce Springsteen, ‘it’s just winners and losers and don’t get caught on the wrong side of that line’.
Triple 9 is a visceral experience and the ensemble cast is dedicated to giving committed performances, but Affleck is the standout. He might not have the gravitas or physical presence of his older brother, but he has developed into an impressive character actor who can anchor a movie.
There’s a lot to recommend about Triple 9, but it’s a little too dark and serious for its own good. The film has few rays of light and a little humour may have helped give it a bit more soul. John Hillcoat continues to craft thrillers with his specific, dark worldview (The Proposition, The Road and Lawless) and while none of these have been out-right classics, they have all been noble attempts at deliver hard-edged adult-oriented experiences. Triple 9 joins their ranks and while I can’t call it great, I can call it captivating.
The blu-ray comes with some deleted scenes and a couple of short but interesting behind-the-scenes pieces.