Triple 9 Opinion: Discount "The Town", but has some good moments
Ben Affleck's "The Town", in which he stars and directs, was a solid-A crime-drama following a group of career criminals in Boston and their fight against the FBI and the cops, who were led by Jon Hamm. The image that I will never forget is that one moment when Affleck slows things down (slow mo) and allows us to take in this one moment when a little kid sees the group dressed as nuns armed to the teeth with assault rifles. When I saw the trailer for Triple 9, I was sort of reminded of The Town. My first thought was "this probably is going to a B level discount The Town", but I saw the cast and thought this surely has to be something of value right? I mean you have Norman Reedus, Anthony Mackie, Aaron Paul, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Casey Affleck, Woody Harrelson, Kate Winslet and more... Solid players right? That's what made me go in to watch this film. Unfortunately, despite some one off well executed sequences, Triple 9 is too reminiscent of Affleck's The Town and not really as thrilling as its cast billing might suggest.
Triple 9 opens with a very decent opening sequence, a bank heist with the lead characters. What happens thereafter somewhat reduces the value of what could have been a strong start to the film. Lot of things in the plot are either unexplained or just plain don't make sense, but I like some of the slight nuances the director chose. For instance, I like how the director, John Hillcoat, doesn't ruminate on small things that occur during big action set pieces, most action films today constantly cut to close-ups of small details or things that happen so often that is stops the actual action that is happening and it detracts from the viewing of the sequence itself and the viewers is left with nothing of great importance to think about in the set piece, since that is what one of the purposes of the close up is. Hillcoat, however, lets all of these things play out smoothly. While the main action is going on, he cuts quickly to show either a distraction device being set, or someone doing something conspicuous, or something shady that will affect the main action, and allows the action to continue. It doesn't detract from the sequence, which is what tends to happen in most films. So, props to him for that. And yes, this film is quite grim and violent, and Hillcoat takes has no problem showing you the heads of men on a car, the point blank shooting in the head of people in Medium close up or even close ups and of course the gun fights.
Plot wise, the film became less and less palatable after the relatively strong first sequence. Apparently the reason for the group to engage in all of this crime is so that one of them can get his son back from a mafia lord (Kate Winslet) holding him captive. Even worse, that particular member of the group, played by Chiwetel Ejiofor in a very strong performance, is actually a cop. So I don't see how he wouldn't be able to use the help of law enforcement itself, unless she has some information that might unleash the truth about him, but then I'd ask why does she need his son? The very title of the film refers to a police code which means officer down, and that is what is used in the final act of the film. Apparently when one cop is shot, the entire police force comes down wherever the action happened, and that is what is used the the group's advantage. The least palatable of the whole thing, without a doubt.
There was however, a very well executed tense scene when the police had to arrest a known suspect in relation to the investigation at hand, and it was quite reminiscent of the extremely brutal, shocking and well executed police standoff that occurred in True Detective season 2. The only problem with it was that it had little to do with the plot. They wanted to take in one person who might know about what was going on in the case, for which the director felt the need to devote like 20 minutes or something to the capturing of him. The film does spend some time trying to talk about race and the ghettoised in America, specifically in this film, Hispanics, but it ends up not meaning much to the film since the plot mostly revolves around the characters of Chiwetel Ejiofor and Casey Affleck.
So overall, what I thought was going to be a pretty solid action-crime film eventually fell flat with a plot so thin not even Chiwetel's strong performance in one of the lead roles (I say this because the film cuts to different characters and their points of view so many times its hard keeping track, compounding that is the fact that there are just way too many characters here.) could revive it. But hey, if you are free, its no harm to see this film just to see the cast do their thing. Aaron Paul pulls it off, along with all the others!