Movie Review – Triple 9 (2016)

Director: John Hillcoat

Stars: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Anthony Mackie, Kate Winslet, Aaron Paul, Casey Affleck, Woody Harrelson, Norman Reedus, Clifton Collins Jr., Gal Gadot

A gang made up of criminals and corrupt cops plan on murdering a cop to pull off their biggest heist yet.

And that synopsis really doesn’t do the film justice because it’s about greed and revenge and all the other delightful human emotions. Michael (Ejiofor) is under the thumb of the matriarch of the Russian mafia, Irina (Winslet) who is his sister-in-law, and has his ex-wife and son living in her home. The interplay between the characters is really what drives the film, as they all have power in different fields, but are controlled by outside factors. It’s brutal at times and it’s all about the balance of control.

The direction of the film is pretty slick, with the action set-pieces frantic but also clear, and the character moments allowed to breathe. The settings are varied, from abandoned projects in the city to nightclubs to bare homes to mansions, and it’s interesting to see the settings in which different characters live, and how they each see the world differently. The plot ramps up towards the end as all the chaotic threads come together buuuuuuuut there’s a bit of a problem, and it’s the reason this film isn’t going to get as much buzz as it could have, because the potential was here for greatness, but instead it’s just good.

The problem has to do with tension. You see, there are a lot of twists and turns here, with characters betraying each other or doing things that are unexpected, and yet I was never blown away or caught breathless by anything. Whenever something happens it is abrupt, which is good sometimes, but not all the time. There were so many chances for Hillcoat to bring people to the edge of their seats but he missed them all. There were no moments where I was holding my breath, none where my heart was racing, and this flaw robs the film of what it needed to be great. And it’s a shame because it means that when the film ends it feels like it’s with a whimper, and the pacing just feels off.

Aside from that it’s a good film, it’s just not a great film.

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