When it comes to modern crime thrillers, film sometimes has trouble competing with television. Each year sees dozens of TV series – prime-time, cable and otherwise – tackle the genre and for a film to really stand out against this herd and compete with stuff like True Detective or Luther, it has to go big or go home.
Thankfully, Triple 9 doesn’t just go big – it goes big and stylish. Almost every scene and shot in the film is dripping with a gritty, dark creative energy. It’s a production that doesn’t feel thrown together but considered. Unfortunately, by the time the dust settles it all feels a little light. Like I said, it’s got style – but not a lot of depth or substance to back it up.
The setup here sees criminals Micheal (Chiwetel Ejiofor), Russell (Norman Reedus) and Gabe (Aaron Paul) team up with a pair of dirty cops (Anthony Mackie & Clifton Collins Jr) to pull of a string of high-stakes robberies for the Russian Mafia, headed by Kate Winslet‘s Irena Vlaslov.
The cast here is one of Triple 9‘s biggest selling points – in fact, it might be a little too good (and large) for its own good. It never really feels like the film is giving anyone enough screen time, and the scripts futile attempts to correct this often come at the cost of the plot – which was not always easy to follow. Though the opening bank robbery sequence hit all the right notes, it felt like the story of that transpired afterwards felt like it was constantly tripping over itself.
Triple 9 often feels like it’s very deliberately evoking crime-thriller classic Heat – but falling flat in several other areas as a result. Only Woody Harrelson and Kate Winslet manage to bring any real charisma to their parts – with the rest of the cast spending most of the film quietly brooding. Credit where it’s due, director John Hillcoat has nailed the aesthetic of Michael Mann’s film to a tee. However, it never even comes close to generating the same character-driven hooks that make its idol so beloved.
It sounds a little harsh but while Triple 9 succeeds in emulating the style and tone of one of the best crime movies of all time, it feels like there’s little else to commend here. Fantastic direction and an all-star cast are suffocated of potential by the script film. It’s a film that goes big, and even bigger on style – but I wouldn’t say it leaves that much of an impact.
Review Score: THREE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Triple 9 releases on the 3rd of March.