Hillcoat needs a better editor.
Only sparks of potential fly in Triple 9, an otherwise another flawed effort from director John Hillcoat.Despite having another all-star cast, Hillcoat still can't quite deliver the goods, here faltering in the heist thriller genre in much the same way he struggled with the prohibition crime drama Lawless. They're equally valiant efforts, both with hints of genius; scenes where you sit up and pay attention; moments you wish were a part of a better, more cohesive whole. They just could have - and should have - been more memorable entries in their respective, over-burgeoning, genres. All the pieces are here to make a great heist thriller, following Heat’s 20-year lead, and more recent, solid entries like Ben Affleck’s The Town. There’s well established tension through a superb opening heist, with the threat of violence reliably realised by Hillcoat, as the executioner’s blade hangs above the necks of the various characters, and there's some well-crafted action peppered across the runtime.It has so much potential both in terms of cast and content but Hillcoat can’t bring it all together, wasting his all-star cast and tinkering with some messy editing that sees scenes muddled and even abruptly ended, making you scratch your head as to what he and his editor (ironically, the same guy who edited the equally disjointed Child 44) were thinking when they put this all together. At one point, it seems like the clock is ticking on the final heist, with an imminent time pressure. Then, all of a sudden, the film dips into a protracted police raid and ensuing montage all of which, undoubtedly, should have gone earlier in the film. With impetus robbed by such mishandling, it’s hard to regard this as much more than another initially promising but ultimately flawed Hillcoat film that simply should have been much better.
Picture QualityTriple 9 hits UK shores on a Region B-locked Blu-ray complete with a faithfully gritty, and ultimately satisfying, presentation.
The film’s 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation, framed in the original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.39:1 widescreen, does a solid job at rendering the digital images in a surprisingly natural way, with the end result so smoothly bathed in fine grain and gritty texturing that it looks almost impossible to discern from its filmic counterparts. Detail is excellent, picking up on skin textures, clothing weaves and background nuances as the various environments come to life. For the most part there are no significant digital defects to plague your viewing pleasures, although the more extreme colour graded / light-sapped shots (one night shot lit only by red streetlights, and one glimpse of lightning) do falter and crush does become more of an issue than you’d ideally like, leaving the end result a solid, faithful rendering that is mostly impressive but that also ultimately falls short of earning demo or reference accolades.
Sound QualityThe accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track does the job too, underpinned by a strong LFE quotient.
Dialogue is promoted clearly and coherently, predominantly across the frontal array – rising above the rest of the elements on offer – whilst the effects deliver a succession of thunderous gunshots with hearty aplomb. A few smaller explosions are also quite effective but it’s the gunfire that hits home with welcome impact. All the while a grungy and bass-heavy score growls unnervingly in the background (courtesy of Atticus Ross, who tries to maintain a handle on the messy proceedings with his distinctive electronic-fused beats) and gives the track an almost permanent LFE edge. Overall, it’s easy to see why you’d demo a few of the well-staged action sequences – it’s not Heat but it still sounds pretty damn good.
ExtrasA couple of tiny 2-3 minute long Featurettes and a scattershot of Deleted Scenes offer little insight into this production but, in an upgrade to the US counterpart, the UK disc also offers up no less than 40 minutes of Interview snippets with the cast and crew. Despite the fractured nature of these, there are some nice morsels of background information to pick up on including, tellingly, a general sense of hope from the cast in what the director would come up with after having shot the film - it's interesting and unsurprising that they didn't have a clearer picture of Hillcoat's end result; Hillcoat himself, at least from his last few films, gives the impression he doesn't always have a clear picture either.
VerdictUltimately it’s just another Hillcoat film which can now get labelled ‘should have been much better’.
If you can somehow escape the problems, sidestep the inconsistencies, and ignore the rampant familiarity with its far better progenitors, on a scene-by-scene basis a great deal of Triple 9 works. It’s a frequently taut all-star thriller with some impressively staged action. Unfortunately it doesn’t come together as a cohesive whole.
The UK Region B-locked Blu-ray looks and sounds excellent, and boasts what looks to be an upgrade in extra features, making this a solid purchase for fans of the film.
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