FILM REVIEW: Triple 9 (15)

Crime thriller explores dark side of life

Starring: Casey Affleck, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Anthony Mackie, Aaron Paul, Norman Kate Winslet.

Crime thriller

DELVING into the murky world of dirty cops and gangland grime, Triple 9 is a strong new entry to the crime thriller category.

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Aided by a stellar cast and a sharp, well-observed and utterly believable script, this examination of the dark underbelly of Atlanta, Georgia, and the influence of the Russian mafia on both sides of the law is completely gripping.

The film opens with the execution and fallout of a slick bank robbery undermined by a flawed getaway.

It soon emerges that the raiders’ gang, which is partly made up of corrupt detectives, carried out the bank job on behalf of the Russian mafia gang led by ruthless Irina (a barely-recognisable Kate Winslet in a terrifying display) who are in no hurry to write off the debt they are owed.

As rookie gang squad detective Chris (Casey Affleck) dips his toes in the festering waters of the drug-riddled housing “projects” and bids to prove to his police chief father-in-law (Woody Harrelson, here playing an alcoholic, instinctive veteran), it becomes clear he may not be able to trust anyone, particularly when the bank raiders settle on a grim way to clear up their mess.

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The acting is above-par throughout, Chiwetel Ejiofor’s Mike convincing as both a ruthless criminal and a pining dad, Anthony Mackie’s Marcus Belmont ably conveying his character’s developing respect for his new partner and Aaron Paul nailing the snivelling, weak link of the gang.

Triple 9 is full of memorable little details, from the hardened gang lieutenant’s nifty way with a child’s pushchair and a particularly gruesome use of plastic explosive to the way Marcus’ dismissive branding of his new partner as “Stupid!” carries more weight than any 18-rated outburst.

Director John Hillcoat and his DP put you right in the heart of the action with shaky hand-held camerawork, close-up shots and verité-style footage.

A raid on a druglord’s house is edge-of-your-seat tense, Affleck’s well-drilled squad splintering off to clear each room in turn, at every moment alert to the prospect of a hail of bullets.

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The bank raiders cover their tracks by torching a couple of cars, and you can almost feel the heat of the flames, and the blood being shed seems to carry some impact, the violent feeling realistic, not gratuitous.

Perhaps the greatest sign of Triple 9’s impact is the way its key moments of brutality and emotional wallop stay with you much longer than the cartoon violence of a superhero film or a standard action flick.

Triple 9 has received mixed reviews, with some rightly pointing out that it doesn’t hit the heights of fellow gangland thrillers The Town and Heat (although it also reminded me of the underrated Animal Kingdom).

But at least it aspires to such standards, even if its at-times familiar characterisation and plot twists sees some of its good work falling short of greatness.


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