**** out of 5
Rated R for strong violence and language throughout, drug use and some nudity
Open Road Films
Sometimes the best films can emerge victorious from development hell. Triple 9 may not have suffered as greatly as others along the way to the big screen, but it’s still hard to believe that it took six years for John Hillcoat to get it to theaters. With a rotating cast along the way, Hillcoat has managed to get a fantastic ensemble together to deliver the year’s first edge of your seat thriller. It certainly helps that screenwriter Matt Cook provides a screenplay full of high tension and plenty of twists and turns before we finally arrive at the last man standing.
The First City Bank in Atlanta, Georgia has just been robbed. With the Russian mafia’s stranglehold on the city, it’s not surprising that the robbers pretend to have Spanish accents. What is surprising is that our gang of thieves are all cops. Brothers Russel and Gabe Welch (Norman Reedus and Aaron Paul), Michael Atwood (Chiwetel Ejiofor), Marcus Belmont (Anthony Mackie), and Jorge Rodriguez (Clifton Collins Jr.) are high off their latest score. Kingpin Irina Vlaslov (Kate Winslet) wants them to perform one more job.
In true MacGuffin fashion, they start to stage a plan involving a 999 incident (officer down) and Marcus’s unsuspecting new partner, Chris Allen (Casey Affleck). Chris happens to be nephew of Sergeant Detective Jeffrey Allen (Woody Harrelson) who is hot on their case. A few subplots abound with Michael having a personal connection to Irina who is basically holding his son hostage, while he’s having relations with her sister Elena (Gal Gadot). And Gabe starts to have second thoughts to their latest plan.
John Hillcoat may not be the most prolific director, but he does gritty with the best of them. From The Proposition to The Road to Lawless to Triple 9, the man knows how to make a stark, yet mostly entertaining, slowburner. The only film of his I am not a fan of is The Road, but that would fill an entire review itself. As for the rest of his resume, Triple 9 is another humdinger. Nail-biting and keeps you guessing right up until the end, it’s filled with bursts of action that will leave you breathless and trying to catch it at the same time.
The cast all perform terrifically with Winslet in particular continuing her chameleonesque roles as of late. At least she’s more recognizable here than she was in Steve Jobs. In that one I didn’t even know she was in the movie until the credits rolled, and she’s just as good here, if not a bit underused. But this isn’t her show, this one is for the boys and they’re all fantastic together creating a squad of hoodlums you actually don’t mind hanging around with when they aren’t knocking down banks. Triple 9 is a fantastic thriller and is far better than its February release would make you think. Do not miss this one, it’s an engaging ride from start to finish full of character actors doing what they do best, with a director pulling the strings like a pro.