★★★★ – “A Considerable Effort.”

Triple 9 is directed by John Hillcoat and packs a star-studded cast; Casey Affleck, Anthony Mackie, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Aaron Paul, Norman Reedus, Woody Harrelson and Kate Winslet.

A group of corrupt cops and criminals blackmailed by the Russian mob manufacture a 999 – police code for “officer down” – as a distraction during their biggest and most challenging heist yet.

Firstly, I went to see this film specifically for the names attached. Aaron Paul, Norman Reedus, Chiwetel Ejiofor & Woody Harrelson, to name a few. Then there’s the director, Hillcoat, who has created some great films in the past; Lawless and The Road. With so much greatness working on this film, I wonder how it felt so messy. The actors did a terrific job, there’s a lot of focus on their characters and their backgrounds. I love a film that keeps you guessing who the good guy is, and even by the end you’re still not entirely sure. I think the problem is that there’s so much going on, often too much at times. The pacing is quick at first but slowly dies down towards the third act, which may leave you questioning the reasons for this. It had a great blend of grittiness and darkness which I loved, but because the story seemed to lack any kind of meaningful substance, it lost me. In some ways, I found this story similar to Villenueve’s Sicario, but that dealt with everything so much better and kept me entertained throughout. I’m not speaking about action here, I’m talking about actual drama. Something was missing, I don’t quite know what it was yet, but maybe another watch or two may help with understanding the vision the director had.

The original score by Atticus Ross, Leopold Ross, Claudia Sarne & Bobby Krlic is pumping with energy. Atticus has always implemented a very atmospheric and distorted sound to his music, which I’ve come to love and be very fond of. The music works extremely well with the action sequences and dialogue scenes, using sound design as a way of layering and texturing, ultimately completing the overall feel of the film.

The editing by Dylan Tichenor is substantial, very simple and easy to follow. Writing by Matt Cook wasn’t the greatest, and I’m thinking that’s partly why the film didn’t completely win me over. Having said that, all of the actors did a splendid job and managed to keep my attention even though I wasn’t entirely feeling it.

There’s one scene I really loved with Casey Affleck’s character scoping through a safe house containing secret government files, in a raid shot beautifully with care, capturing the tension at its finest. Among the mess that occurs half way through the film, there’s still a few little charms.

My verdict; Triple 9 is tense thriller that will keep you on your feet, leaving you with a finale that sustains a sense of unease that will remain for hours after. Although the screenplay doesn’t enthral you, it’s still an entertaining film. Don’t make it an absolute must-watch, though. There are far more superior stories to be told.

Triple 9 – ★★★★ (7/10)

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