Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||John Hillcoat|
|Written by||Matt Cook|
|Edited by||Dylan Tichenor|
|Distributed by||Open Road Films|
|Box office||$23.4 million|
Triple 9 is a 2016 American crime thriller film directed by John Hillcoat and written by Matt Cook. The film stars an ensemble cast featuring Casey Affleck, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Anthony Mackie, Aaron Paul, Clifton Collins Jr., Norman Reedus, Teresa Palmer, Michael K. Williams, Gal Gadot, with Woody Harrelson, and Kate Winslet. The film was released on February 26, 2016 in the United States by Open Road Films. In the United Kingdom the film was released by eOne. The film polarized critics and audiences, and was a box office disappointment, grossing $23.4 million against its $20 million production budget.
In Atlanta, Georgia, criminals Michael Atwood (Chiwetel Ejiofor), Russell Welch (Norman Reedus), and his brother Gabe (Aaron Paul), along with two corrupt cops, Marcus Belmont (Anthony Mackie) and Franco Rodriguez (Clifton Collins Jr.), rob a bank to retrieve a safe deposit box. The box contains information that could overturn the recent conviction of a Jewish-Russian Mafia boss. When Michael brings the safe deposit box to the boss' wife, Irina (Kate Winslet), she withholds their reward money and gives Michael and his crew another mission, which involves breaking into a government office and stealing more data on her husband. To convince them to take the job, the mafia tortures and then dumps a mortally wounded Russell off in front of the crew, forcing Michael to mercy-kill Russell in front of them, traumatizing Gabe.
The group decides to go forward with the job. As they think of ways they can pull it off, Marcus and Franco suggest a Triple 9 scenario, which involves an officer down call that sends all of the police to the location of the incident, with Marcus nominating his new partner, Chris Allen (Casey Affleck). Marcus tries to befriend Chris as they go out on calls together. During one call, Chris attempts to question a local gang member, Luis Pinto (Luis Da Silva), about a gang-related homicide, only for Luis to attack Chris before being detained for his actions. Chris's uncle, Jeffrey Allen (Woody Harrelson), is a Sgt. Detective in the police force working on the bank robbery case. Jeffrey gets a lead and discovers that Gabe is one of the people involved in the bank robbery. Gabe, still grieving over his brother, tries to stop the heist from happening by following Chris and Marcus around and telling Chris, but is stopped both by Michael and Jeffrey.
On the day of the heist, Marcus takes Chris to an abandoned housing project to meet an informant with information on their homicide case. As they walk around the building, Marcus slips away, and Luis comes in and tries to find Chris. Chris bumps into Gabe who tries to warn him that he is going to die. Luis then charges in and tries to shoot Chris but hits Gabe. As Luis runs away, Chris confronts a critically wounded Gabe. Before Gabe can say anything, Marcus comes in, triggering a shootout between the two. Gabe is killed, and Marcus is shot in the head. Fearing Marcus is dead, Chris makes the Triple 9 call. Thinking his nephew is the officer down, Jeffrey rushes to the scene. Meanwhile, Michael and Franco break into the government office and steal the information with little police disruption. Luis flees the projects and is later shot dead by SWAT after barricading himself in a nearby home.
In the aftermath, Marcus survives but is in critical condition. Michael meets with Irina and her henchmen for the exchange. He has a gift for his son to give to him upon their reunion. Irina gives him the money but does not bring Michael's son as she had promised to earlier. Michael and Irina were earlier revealed to have a family relationship: the mother of Michael's son is Irina's sister; nonetheless, Irina refers to Michael as a "monkey." After being beaten by her henchmen, Michael walks back to his car and triggers a bomb that was wired into his gift, killing Irina and her thugs. As he drives away, Michael is pulled over by Franco, who kills him and steals the money. After investigating Luis's belongings at the morgue, Chris finds a note in Luis's wallet, which contained the location where Marcus took him the day of the shooting. Chris later finds out that Marcus met Luis the day of the shooting, letting him know where to kill Chris. Angered, Chris visits an unconscious Marcus to try to get answers but is interrupted by Franco, who invites Chris back to the station to get his account of the shooting. As the two head to the car, Chris receives a call from Jeffrey, who tells him that Franco has been cleaning house and that he might be next. Chris, clutching his holstered weapon, stops and tells Franco that he’ll meet him at the station. Franco, realizing Chris has been tipped of his involvement, agrees to meet Chris there. As the two head out to their respective cars, Jeffrey is seen inside Franco's car, and they both shoot each other when Franco takes a seat in his car. Franco is killed, and Jeffrey is shot in the abdomen. As Chris makes a Triple 9 call, Jeffrey calmly pulls a joint and smokes it. Jeffrey's fate is left unknown.
The project was first announced in August 2010 with director John Hillcoat circling Matt Cook's crime drama script Triple Nine, set to star Shia LaBeouf, with Steve Golin attached to produce. Cook's script was included in Black List scripts of 2010. Hillcoat confirmed his direction of the film later in May 2012; the casting of LaBeouf and Nick Cave scoring the music for the film were also confirmed. Later, Cave left the project and Atticus Ross came on board to compose the score for the film. In February 2014 Open Road Films acquired the US distribution rights to the film and Worldview Entertainment came on board to finance the film after the exit of Panorama Media.
The film went through many casting changes. Shia LaBeouf was initially attached to star in the film but later left the project and was replaced by Charlie Hunnam. In December 2013, Hunnam also left the project and was replaced by Casey Affleck. In August 2013, Cate Blanchett and Christoph Waltz were in talks to join the cast but later dropped out and instead Kate Winslet and Woody Harrelson came on board. Casting completed in March 2014, as Aaron Paul, Norman Reedus, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Casey Affleck, Anthony Mackie, Gal Gadot, Teresa Palmer, and Clifton Collins Jr. rounded out the cast.
Hillcoat talking about filming schedule said that, "It’s a challenge, arranging everyone's schedules and trying to accomplish something with eight main characters. I’ve never worked on something quite like this."
Principal photography began on May 28, 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia. On June 5, filming took place at St. Regis in Buckhead, Atlanta, with Winslet. Filming took place at Centennial Olympic Park Drive, Atlanta from June 23 to June 25, 2014. In early July, filming moved to Decatur, scenes were shot from July 9–12, 2014 in the 200 block of Kings Highway. Additionally stretches of Ansley Street and Kings Highway were also be used as establishing shots. Scenes were also shot on White Street, South East of Westview Cemetery, Atlanta. On July 17, 2014, a scene was shot in Atlanta with real paramedics, SWAT Officers and police officers along with the principal cast. Due to heavy rain, some scenes remained unfinished while shooting at Centennial Olympic Park, where filming again took place from August 5–6, 2014. After that, filming was wrapped.
Atticus Ross composed the music for the film along with his wife Claudia Sarne, brother Leopold Ross and Bobby Krlic. Talking about the music of the film, Ross said that "he [Hillcoat] had a particular vision for the music on this movie which was very raw sounding electronics; with bizarrely a saxophone in there. With this film, it was difficult because we were trying to get the story right and one would write the music, but then the scenes would change around and it all becomes redundant. So it was quite a bit of work." A foreboding version of This Little Piggy was featured in the trailer of the film.
On August 27, 2014, Open Road set the film for a nationwide release on September 11, 2015. But on June 10, 2015 it was announced the release date of the film has moved from September 11, 2015 to March 4, 2016. In October 2015, the release date was moved up to February 26, 2016.
The first trailer for the film was released on October 5, 2015.
Triple 9 was released on DVD and Blu-ray on May 31, 2016.
Triple 9 underperformed at the box office, grossing $12.6 million in North America and $10.8 million in other territories for a total gross of $23.4 million, against a budget of $20 million.
In the United States and Canada, pre-release tracking suggested the film would gross $7–9 million from 2,205 theaters in its opening weekend, trailing fellow newcomer Gods of Egypt ($12–15 million projection) but similar to Eddie the Eagle. The film made $2.1 million on its first day and $6.1 million in its opening weekend, finishing 6th at the box office.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film received a rating of 53%, based on 156 reviews, with an average rating of 5.8/10. The site's consensus reads, "Triple 9's pulpy potboiler thrills don't quite live up to the ferocious talents of its cast, but the film's efficient, solidly crafted genre fun is often enough to balance its troublesome flaws." Metacritic gives the film a score of 52 out of 100, based on 41 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "C+" on an A+ to F scale.
Tom Huddleston of Time Out gave Triple 9 four out of five stars, positively comparing the film to Michael Mann's Heat. Huddleston praised the ensemble cast and concluded that the film is "carried off with brashness and momentum by a director who genuinely seems to be having a blast." Variety's Justin Chang was less receptive towards the film's narrative, but applauded its action sequences and wrote that the "result is a film that conveys the eerie sense of lying in wait for all its characters, and the paranoia is infectious, with at least two scenes certain to have viewers checking their car backseats upon exiting the theater.
In a mixed review, Empire's Ian Freer gave Triple 9 three out of five stars. Freer praised the cast's performance, but criticized the film's screenplay and second half, surmising that "the interesting world of the film doesn't get the story it deserves." While praising Anthony Mackie's performance and Nicholas Karakatsanis's cinematography, Indiewire's Oliver Lyttelton criticized the film's narrative structure as unsatisfying, suggesting that "perhaps there's a longer cut out there… perhaps that cut led to a film that felt like it was actually about something." Alonso Duralde of TheWrap also panned Triple 9, in particular disapproving of the film's screenplay and third act. Duralde writes: "…[Triple 9] somehow managed to collect an impressively A-list cast on its way toward becoming a cop movie that's not just dumb, it's disastrous."
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