Triple 9

(MA)15+ Casey Affleck, Woody Harrelson, Chiwetel Ejiofor

Director  John Hillcoat (Lawless) is known for his ‘no-holds-barred’ style of communicating the message of criminals and the police that pursue them. How real do people want their cinematic experience to be?

The police drama continues to offer new and exciting considerations for movie goers. The challenge for film makers throughout cinematic history has been to determine has been how far to take things in the realm of language, violence and atmosphere of these crime fighters. Determining the balance between realism and caricature, filmmakers have to choose how real viewers want their crime fighting experiences.

If you want realism, Triple 9 delivers it like a roundhouse punch in the stomach. It is an exceptionally raw depiction of law enforcement in the city of Atlanta. The focus is on the planning of two heists, the individuals involved on both sides of the law and those who blur the lines of justice.

Michael (Chiwetel Ejiofor) heads up a band of thieves who are on their final job for the Russian mafia. Within the mix of bandits are dirty cops who assist in the process by providing the insider information to be one step ahead of the law. All seems to be going well, but things take a turn for the worse for this well-trained troupe. In desperation, they resolve to stage a triple nine, which in police lingo means the shooting of a police officer. This rash act was meant to buy them time to perform a seemingly impossible theft.

The unexpected flaw in their plan is the choice of their target for the shooting, Chris Allen (Casey Affleck). As a seasoned officer and former Marine, he does not prove to be an easy mark. His instincts and self-awareness cause turmoil for the malicious mob. Ultimately their plan runs aground and leads to an action-packed conclusion that takes various twists and turns that prove that no one in the process is innocent or isolated from tragedy.

Travelling through the muck and mire of Atlanta’s world of organised crime brings on a sensation of being showered with an abundance of filth without any hope of getting clean. This true-to-life experience is brought about by John Hillcoat’s direction. His style is powerful, but after awhile it begins to feel like multiple blows to the face. From the opening credits to the final scene, Triple 9 provides a dire look into law enforcement and yields little to no hope for justice.

The strength of the direction is built on well written characters that find themselves in relentless cycles of depravity. Some of the highlights are found in Chiwetel Ejiofor’s portrayal of a man attempting to get out from under the tyrannical influence of Russian mafia leader, Irina Vaslov (Kate Winslet) and Woody Harrelson’s mumbling delivery which successfully captures the essence of the jaded detective captain. All of these roles remain in the realm of the dark and hopeless, except for the one glimmer of hope that is seen in Casey Affleck’s character, who seems to be a fish out of water throughout the film. He is flawed, but manages to operate from a position of justice until the end. His character is trivialised and mocked for his judicious resolve, which causes him to  be is underestimated by most of those around him. The performances are exceptional even though the tale is tragically depressing on a multitude of levels.

The direction, acting and writing of Triple 9 deserve praise, but the serendipitous feeling of the film is the undoing of the tale. The conclusion becomes jumbled mayhem. Triple 9begins by conveying a reality to the cinematic experience, but in attempting to tie off all of the loose ends, overreaches the realities of the familiar law enforcement storyline.

What are some of the bigger questions to consider from this film?

The world is broken. Watching Triple 9 is like seeing an object lesson in the depravity of creation. A big question that has to be asked in light of this film is what is God doing about this mess and is there any hope for this broken world? It is a monumental question that can be answered in the person of Jesus. Not that it is a simple answer, but not until you look into his life and death will the answer be evident. Pick up one of the accounts of his life and see how God answers this multi-layered query with one man.

  1. Can we find truth in this world? (John 14:6, 1 Corinthians 13:4-6)
  2. Can we ever find justice? (Proverbs 21:15, Romans 12:19)
  3. Is it possible to come out from under our circumstances? (Psalm 40:17, Romans 8:38-39)

 

Russell Matthews

Russell loves film and enjoys engaging in discussions about the latest cinema offerings and then connecting this with the Gospel. He has worked for City Bible Forum for over 10 years, is a reviewer for Insights Magazine and Entertainment Fuse and has a blog called Russelling Reviews. He moderates events for Reel Dialogue which connect the film industry with the general public.