Modern day cops and robbers tales are all about blurring the lines between criminal and authority, which makes it a perfect fit for John Hillcoat, well known for his fascination with villians and anti-heroes. It’s a pity then that Hillcoat shortchanges himself with Triple 9, squeezing a three-hour story into a two-hour movie, and sacrificing his characters to do it.
It’s best to go into Triple 9 without any knowledge of the story, but safe to say the cops are robbers, the robbers are cops, and everybody’s got secrets. The movie oozes testosterone, courtesy of its overstuffed, over-macho cast, with Casey Affleck and Chiwetel Ejiofor the standouts. Sadly, the only female character with more than couple of lines is Kate Winslet: chewing scenery as a Russian crime matriarch. The high volume of characters means we never get to spend much time with them, so shallow archetypes and expositional dialogue replace of real characterisation.
Hillcoat knows his way around a tense pot-boiler, punctuating the plotting with moments of extreme violence – now his signature style. Triple 9 is taut and engaging, well-shot and constructed. But with Hillcoat’s pedigree, it’s hard not to wish for the better film lurking just beneath the surface.