It is via this lens that 'Triple 9' is best approached, and it's compelling exploration of human nature can be truly appreciated...
Trapped between the proverbial rock and hard place, a collection of criminals and corrupt cops consider the extreme in order to pull off a seemingly impossible heist.
Hillcott weaves the words of relative newcomer Matt Cook into a gritty tapestry of betrayal, fellowship, deceit, and redemption. All of which stem from clearly defined, if occasionally fluctuating, characters. The pace is swift and barely pauses along the way, propelling the audience as breathlessly through moments of reflection and confusion as it does moments of action. As with the aforementioned 'Lawless', there is a palpable sense of escalating tension hanging over proceedings, creating some truly edge-of-the-seat, unpredictable set-pieces in a similar vein to 'The Raid'. Without the martial arts though of course.
At the centre of the events, Casey Affleck ('Gone Baby Gone', 'Manchester By The Sea') is on traditionally sterling form as a rookie detective trying to make sense of everything, with solid support from Anthony Mackie ('The Winter Soldier', 'The Hurt Locker'). Woody Harrelson ('True Detective', 'Zombieland') is on-hand to offer some extra pathos, as well as some much needed levity. Aaron Paul is as phenomenally intense as he ever was in 'Breaking Bad', though it could be argued that his character is a spiritual brother of Jesse Pinkman. And Chiwetel Ejiofor ('12 Years a Slave') continues on his path to world domination, showing once again that there is nothing he can't do. He repeatedly serves as the heart, soul, and a driving, sympathetic force of the film.
Given it's ensemble nature and the fact it meanders back and forth between various threads, it would be easy to dismiss a lot of the positives and negatives of 'Triple 9' and consider it a bit of a mess. There will, no doubt, be those that do. And maybe understandably so. Scratch beneath the Michael Mann-esque surface and there is a lot to enjoy from the brief glimpse into these worlds - in terms of spectacle and distinctly human conflicts.
Although the ending is a slight misstep, ending on slightly the wrong note, and numerous actors are wasted in their roles, Hillcott succeeds up to that point in keeping things not only cohesively on track, but thoroughly exciting and enthralling throughout.
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