HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Triple 9
HTS Overall Score:77
The corrupt cop genre isn’t exactly new and fresh, but Director John Hillcoat (“The Road” and “Lawless”) livens it up a bit with this gritty cop drama that is downright brutal and unflinching with its portrayal of different shades of gray. It goes without saying that not everything is black and white. There is usually some darkness mixed in with the light and some source of hope and goodness mixed in with even the most hardened criminal. “Triple 9” is reminiscent of “Training Day” and “Heat” mixed with a few other heist movies and puts a bleak cover over the top like only John Hillcoat can do (just watch “The Road” if you want to see a fantastically bleak film by the same man). The film is not always perfect, and the plot always crystal clear, but the ensemble cast does a great job at making it entertaining and engaging throughout.
Marcus (Anthony Mackie) and Franco Rodriguez (Clifton Collins Jr., “Boondock Saints II”) are two dirty cops who have thrown in with a trio of hardened criminals. Lead by ex-special forces Michael Atwood (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and brother Russel and Gabe (Norman Reedus of “The Walking Dead” and Aaron Paul of “Breaking Bad”) the trio have to team up with the two dirty cops in order to pull off a series of jobs for Russian mobster Irena (an almost unrecognizable Kate Winslet) in order to break out her husband from a Russian Gulag. Files are needed for his release and these files are in federal hands, so the five men have to steal said information. Michael Atwood is under duress, as his son is actually the niece of Irena and the mother is her sister Elana (Gal Gadot), so with his son Felix being held over his head there is not much he can do but complete the job.
The first job (a bank robbery) goes exactly as planned, but the men don’t realize that there is a second job lined up. A job that may not exactly be nearly as easy as the first. To get this job done they need some extra time on the docket before the cops show up and that can only happen if something is distracting them. Rodriguez comes up with the brilliant plan of fabricating a triple 9, which is police speak for officer down. Targeting Officer Chris Allen (Casey Affleck) as the target the cops and robbers start to fall apart at the scene. One by one they fall to greed, stupidity and just plain bad luck with Russel getting offed by Irena, and his brother Gabe giving up crucial information by accident that very well may incriminate them all. With Chris Allen’s uncle Jeffrey (also a cop) working the same case from a different angle, all the men are soon to meet in the middle with a violently bloody confrontation that will leave some dead, and some wishing they WERE dead.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=71097[/img]“Triple 9” is does not exactly blaze new trails in the dirty cop thriller, but John Hillcoat’s well-tuned directorial hand at the helm allows the characters to really shine here and allow the film to be better than it has any right to being. No strange to bleak storytelling, Hillcoat keeps the film moving at a brisk pace, and despite some of the clichés and tropes of dirty cop movies, he keeps the audience guessing just what will happen next until the very end (well, despite some standard betrayal and backstabbing that is common in these types of films). After the first job ends and the second starts the audience is clued into the fact that this is about to go sideways, but you’re never sure just exactly who is going to bite the bullet.
This really was an ensemble films, which is something that seems to be more common in the film world recently. I swear I’ve reviewed 4 ensemble films in the last week alone. There was some trouble in the original casting and production values as the film was originally going to have Christoph Waltz, Shia La douche, and Cate Blanchet in the leading role, but the inclusion of Kate Winslet, Anthony Mackie, Aaron Paul, Woody Harrelson, Casey Affleck and the rest of the motley crew do a good job at keeping experience grim and realistic. “Triple 9” was something that I had high hopes for, and was actually a decent movie, but the film also feels a bit convoluted and confusing at times, with scene jumps that make you stop and pause the movie while you wonder how the characters got there or if there was a time lapse of not. It’s a solid movie, but the flaws are present and keep it from becoming the next “Heat”.
Rated R for strong violence and language throughout, drug use and some nudity
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=71105[/img]“Triple 9” is another in a long list of digitally filmed movies, but one that actually looks a LOT like actual film stock at times. Intentionally shot with a gritty look, it captures a great deal of fine detail. Faces look well defined and clothing is tight and cleanly captured, with individual fibers and stitches visible to the naked eye. Colors tend to be a bit dim and lean towards a reddish gold tinge, and always bathed in darkness and shadows. Blacks are good, but do suffer some from black crush and some occasional digital noise in the darkest scenes. The disc itself seems to be free of any major artifacting except for the crush and noise, which gives the intentionally harsh looking film pleasant to look at. While the film may not be digital eye candy, it is a great looking encode that’s only flaws are a very intentionally raw and gritty looking texture to the experience.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=71113[/img]The 5.1 DTS-HD MA track on Universal’s Blu-ray disc is powerful and aggressive from the get go. Filled with pounding LFE and an aggressive surround mix it adds a lot of raw energy to the track and keeps it bombastic and engaging to the end. The score by Atticus Ross is harsh and sometimes almost deafening, positioning itself around the track to create a nice center of immersion and the ambient noises activate the side speakers with great aplomb. Cars whizzing by on the freeway, bullets plinking over your shoulder and the screaming of civilians during the initial bank robbery pull you in and never let go, while the front sound stage shows some great imaging as it balanced the aggressive score with perfectly intelligible dialog that stays locked up in the center channel. The LFE is a bit hot and sometimes feels overcooked, but let no one say that it isn’t there in spades as the track just pulses with bass.
• Deleted Scenes
• Authentic World
• Under the Gun
“Triple 9” is not exactly a new and exciting genre of film, but it is as solid entry into the crime genre, blending dirty cops with honest ones and good old fashioned Russian mobsters. The fantastic ensemble cast adds their own unique flair to the film and really is what makes the slightly muddled plot work despite the flaws present in the script. Audio is fantastic and video is rough and raw, but perfectly acceptable considering the aesthetic choices used. As a crime thriller you could do much and worse and is definitely worth checking out at the very least. Even if it’s just as a good rental.
Starring: Casey Affleck, Anthony Mackie, Chiwetel Ejiofor
Directed by: John Hillcoat
Written by: Matt Cook
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Runtime: 116 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: May 31st 2016
Buy Triple 9 On Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Check It Out
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