365 Movies By Day Reviews of Movies I Watch that I Feel Like Writing About

5Jun/160

Triple 9 (2016)

If you watched season 1 of HBO's True Detective and you were as much of a fan of the six-minute single-shot shootout scene that ended episode four's (titled Who Goes There) as I was, you might just very well like John Hillcoat's (The Road, Lawless) underappreciated Triple 9. If you watch Game of Thrones and found the intense battle between the Jon Snow led wildlings and the white walkers at the end of season five episode eight (titled Hardhome) as the best single scene in the history of the show, you might just very well like the star-studded Triple 9. If I had trusted my instincts and not those of the critics, I would have been able to appreciate this gem of a popcorn flick on the on the big screen. Instead, I let the movie pass through the theaters, knowing I would see it eventually at home, but convincing myself that, despite the awesome previous, I would be disappointed by this movie. Recently, one of my colleagues at work asked why I hadn't told her to see Triple 9, knowing that it was a movie right up my wheelhouse. She was really the first person I actually knew who had seen the movie. So I feel obligated early on this review to try to match this movie with an audience that can best appreciate it. If you like the intensity that comes with a bank robbery movie (my two favorite bank robbery movies are The Town, which is my second favorite movie ever, and the original Point Break), I can't think of a reason that you wouldn't like Triple 9. There are plenty of underlying storylines, but just like those two movies, Triple 9 refuses to take its foot off the accelerator and doesn't confuse its audiences by undervaluing the ferocity of its story by wasting even a single scene that isn't relevant to its story. In 2016, you almost need a caveat when talking about movies. So while Captain America: Civil War is the best movie to be released in the first five months of the year, the best non-superhero movie is Triple 9

Ironically, if not for Captain America: Civil War, Triple 9 would have the best ensemble cast of the year so far. Headed by Casey Affleck (Gone Baby Gone, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford) who, just like his brother Ben, keeps getting better as he gets deeper into his career, this film also features Anthony MacKie's (The Adjustment Bureau, Man on a Ledge) best performance since his breakout in 2009's The Hurt Locker. While these were the two leaders, Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave, Secret in Their Eyes), Clifton Collins Jr. (Transcendence, Brothers), Aaron Paul (Man on a Ledge, AMC's Breaking Bad) also shined. And not to outdone were Norman Reedus (AMC's The Walking Dead, Sunlight Jr.), in a role that was different than Daryl Dixon we've become so used to seeing him in, and Woody Harrelson (Out of the Furnace, Rampart) in a role that we've become totally accustomed to. Finally, there was the nearly unrecognizable Kate Winslet (The Reader, Steve Jobs) who might have been the most dislikable of all of these layered characters.

As mentioned, this movie is about some bad guys masquerading as good guys. There isn't much of a backstory prior to us meeting the characters. Michael (Ejiofor) has basically been forced to rob a bank to get a drawer from one of the safes because Irina is holding his young son. It is never told to us why she has control of his son and why she can decide whether or not she can give his son Felix back permanently to Michael. Further complicating the story is Felix's mother (also Michael's wife) is still in the picture, living with Irina. This part of the story was never explained, but we do know Irina is a Russian crime boss and has lots of influence both in Russia and in the United States. And when people tell her to do stuff, they do stuff. Furthermore, we don't really know what was in the safe that Michael and his crew robbed, but it had something to do with being able to blackmail the people in Russia so that they will free her captive husband who is being held there without bond by their government. But, the file from the bank didn't have everything they needed so Michael and his crew will have to do a second job in order for him to get his son back and for him and his crew to get the cash they've been promised.

Michael's crew consists of cops Marcus Belmont (Mackie) Franco Rodriguez (Collins Jr.), ex-military member Russel Welch (Reedus), and Russel's brother Gabe (Paul), a former police officer himself who was released from his job after a questionable shooting. There is a certain dynamic among the group. It is implied that the group had done jobs before and that Gabe was new and raw. The first bank job doesn't go flawlessly, but all five men make it away unscathed.

As mentioned, this is a Casey Affleck movie first and foremost. Yet he doesn't really even figure into the picture until a good 20-25 minutes in. He plays Chris, a police officer himself who has been transferred into Marcus and Franco's unit. He is quickly teamed with Marcus who opposes because he doesn't want a new partner from the 02, which is thought to be a low key department of the Atlanta police force. He makes his name well-known with one of the local gangs of the city much to the chagrin of Marcus. His way of doing things seems to be strictly by the book which is a completely different style than the dirty Marcus. There is a subplot here in which Marcus and Chris are trying to find the man responsible for leaving three severed heads with a warning on the windshield of a career in a gang-infested neighborhood. Part of this story is necessary for what happens later on, but I think most of it was to show that Chris is a great cop and a great leader so that we, as the audience, really get behind Chris as the protagonist.

The film's score completely paces the movie. It is forceful. It is loud and it seems ever present. If you like the score of a movie like The Dark Knight Rises, you'll love this score. It certainly gets your blood pumping during the film's action scenes. This movie would not be as successful as it was without the incredible music. And speaking of getting your blood pumping, the action scenes are some of the best of the year. The car chase scene after the first bank robbery is almost worth the price of admission alone. The scene where they go after the gang member who is believed to be responsible for the three severed heads is one of the best action scenes you'll see in the theater all year. It almost felt like you were there videotaping the action yourself. This was what I was talking about in the first paragraph of this review when I referenced True Detective and Game of Thrones. Harrelson was also very good in the familiar role of a member of the police force. In this film, he plays Sergeant Detective Jeffery Allen, who is in charge of the investigation of the first bank robbery. The difference here between some of his previous roles in movies like Out of the Furnace and Rampart is that he's likable, trying to do the right thing at all turns. While the other characters are all playing out the events, Allen is slowly piecing together the parts.

Forget about what the critics have said about this movie. Sure, parts of the plot seemed implausible, but not any more than other movies in this genre. There weren't so many coincidences were you just had to shake your head. In my opinion, everything was every thought out and planned. I was thoroughly engrossed throughout my two hours and I plan to watch this movie again soon. The performances are top notch and it was kind of cool to see guys like Mackie, Ejiofor, and Reedus play bad guys for a change. And, not to be lost in all of this, was the performance of Aaron Paul, the most outwardly conflicted of all the characters. His unraveling was top notch and again we see why he is one of the best generations of his generation. I do wish I knew a little bit more about the Russian angle, but if you can be satisfied with the crew needing to complete two jobs to get the money that they were promised, that will be enough to sustain you.

Enjoy it. Get your popcorn ready.

Plot 8/10
Character Development 9/10 (the benefit of the doubt goes here...look at the cast in this review's second paragraph...to be able to make each of these big time stars a credible part in a film that came in under two hours in length was pretty impressive)
Character Chemistry 10/10 (each character was better off because of his/her interactions with the others)
Acting 10/10
Screenplay 8.5/10
Directing  8.5/10 (Hilcoat is an accomplished director...while Lawless fell slightly short in its quest to be great, his adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's The Road couldn't have been any better...with Triple 9, he was somewhere in the middle of those two movies)
Cinematography 9.5/10
Sound 10/10 (the movie was unbelievably well paced by its score)
Hook and Reel 10/10 (from the very first scene, you know you are in for a ride...you just hope it sustains the momentum it created...this movie did)
Universal Relevance 8/10 (most of us would do just about anything for family and, unfortunately, there are many of us who are at least tempted by the opportunity of a quick payout...and of course, while most cops are clean, there are dirty ones)
91.5%

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