Sean also saw Triple 9, and while he agrees with Jeremy on most fronts, he still really enjoyed John Hillcoat's dirty cop/heist thriller.
By now, the heist/crime genre has been done so many different ways, that finding a new take has almost spawned a genre in and of itself. However, more of these seem to fail, and more often than not, they fail because they tried so hard not to. So when John Hillcoat‘s Triple 9 rehashes a lot of things you’ve seen in other crime thrillers and heist movies, it’s not as disappointing as it might seem in other genres. Sure, you can probably guess the thinly veiled plot twists long before they happen, but that’s part of the fun of the movie, and I didn’t look down on the movie as a whole because of the plot holes.
Still, I’ll touch on the plot, even though I feel it’s one of the less important factors of the movie: Michael (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is an ex-special forces soldier who heads up a crew of thieves that includes his special forces buddy Russell (Norman Reedus), Russell’s little brother and ex-cop Gabe (Aaron Paul), and two dirty cops Marcus (Anthony Mackie) and Franco (Clifton Collins Jr).
They pull jobs for Irina Vlaslov (Kate Winslet), who has a complicated relationship with Michael, she is not only the director of his crimes, but her sister is the mother of his son. Her husband, Vassili, sits in a Russian gulag, while Irina does everything she can to set him free. Finding themselves in a predicament where they have to continue working for Irina, Michael agrees to take the famous “one last job” and then be done.
Like I said, it’s not like the story is unpredictable. Undoubtedly, you’ve seen the movie before if you’ve seen a good chunk of crime cinema. The other piece of the story is Marcus is paired with a detective new to the downtown gang unit, Chris (Casey Affleck), who is newly transferred from Buckhead, one of the most affluent neighborhoods in Atlanta.
When tasked with their “last job”, the crew has to figure out how to buy themselves 10 minutes, and the cops in the crew determine that a code 999, police officer down, will buy them the time they need. The rest of the movie is dedicated to setting up this job, and the ins and outs of it aren’t what’s important, or particularly interesting or surprising. However, it’s still engaging and entertaining.
The best part of the movie is the performances, while a lot of the movie is build on cliches, and even the characters themselves are often cliched, the way the actors go about them is interesting. You would never expect Kate Winslet to be playing a Red Mafiya wife, but she’s just as trashy and snotty as she should be. Gal Gadot is Michael’s baby mama, who is nothing more than eye candy and a somewhat believable connection between Michael and Irina. Woody Harrelson is Chris’ uncle, a hard charging detective with his own problems. Chris, of course, is an honest, ex-military cop. The characters all have their intersections, and while they may not be original, the intersections are not commendable because they’re surprising, but because they’re real, and believable, which they so seldom are, because these movies are often trying to be more clever than the audience.
Some might find that last sentence insulting, but it’s too often true. Screenwriter Matt Cook doesn’t seem to mind that people can guess his plot, instead, he uses it to say something about the cliches he is writing about, rather than spending all his time trying to think of a plot twist that hasn’t been done, all at the expense of the rest of the movie. Sure, the plot may be entirely predictable (I literally went to the bathroom toward the end when Michael meets with Irina because I knew what was going to happen), but I felt like everything beyond plot was interesting enough that the plot could be overlooked.
That leaves me with the meat of my review, which touches on the absolutely gifted Clifton Collins Jr. He manages to be understated, as he has so many times before, in a movie that is clearly over the top in just about every other aspect. However, he manages to be the most important person in the movie, without drawing attention to himself the way the plot does with every other cliche. Harrelson is comparable in his effort to blend in with the world he inhabits, but even then, his character is a little too cartoony for him to truly blend.
Collins has made a career out of doing this, and this is just the latest example. I happen to love the character, he’s an amalgamation of a lot of different characters in crime fiction, but he stands on his own as a quiet cancer to society. If you’re not a fan of crime fiction, and you walk in expecting a twisty plot that will shock you, you probably won’t be very surprised by anything. You may end up bored to tears. But as a fan of crime fiction, it was a fun exercise, and Clifton Collins Jr gets to shine, as he so often does, even when he’s not given a lot to work with. I say it’s worth seeing for him alone. Anyone that enjoys David Ayer’s movies will enjoy this one. Sure, it’s predictable, and even Hillcoat’s usual tough-guy-that-thinks style goes out of the window in favor of “more guns!”, but that doesn’t completely stop it from working, somewhat amazingly.
Jeremy didn’t like it very much because of all the reasons I just listed, I’m here to tell you that I liked it despite all the reasons not to. I still wouldn’t venture to say it’s more than standard genre fare, and people that aren’t die-hards for the genre might not like it, but if any of the things I liked resonate with you, I recommend you take the chance on it.