Review: Triple 9

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When you live in a small town in the middle of nowhere, life is pretty great 99% of the time. The 1% it isn’t that great is when you want to see that small film on the big screen. In this case I drove 100 miles in one direction to see a film on opening weekend that I have been excited to see for months now. Sometimes the movie going general public surprises me. Here is a film that stars…well lets just say this film has so many great actors in it, it maybe easier to list who wasn’t in it. The film opens on the same weekend as the “blockbuster” Gods of Egypt, that happened to be this year’s first flop(who didn’t see that coming?). I really thought this crime noir might surprise the box office. Triple 9 finished 5th at the box office this weekend with $6.1 million and very little coverage and fanfare. With a budget of $28 million, this is far from a hit, but should still make a decent return on investment after its full theater run and DVD release.

So is this film worth going to the theater for or should you just wait for the DVD release to watch it at home some quite night?

This film has a great ensemble cast with a lot of noir fan favorites. Casey Affleck plays the clean cop that wants to make a difference. Woody Harrelson plays his Uncle who isn’t such a clean cop and has a lot of power in the police force. Chiwetel Ejiofor plays the head of the team of thieves who is not just doing this job for the money, but to save his son. Gal Gadot plays the mother of that son and her sister runs the Jewish Russian mob.  Kate Winslet plays the sister that is the head of the Jewish Russian mob. Anthony Mackie, Aaron Paul, Norman Reedus and Clifton Collins Jr. make up the heist team, some are cops, some ex-military. As a bonus,Teresa Palmer plays Affleck’s wife.

This makes a modern noir stew of people doing the wrong things for the right reasons, double crosses, crooked cops of various degrees, and just plain evil men and women using whoever they can to get what they want. All these characters could be the main character in their own neo-noir film and all are interesting and entertaining in their own ways. I liked all the actors in this film. The standouts in this film?  Woody Harrelson, though he does nothing new here, he is David Douglas Brown from Rampart with a little bit more control of his anger or Marty Hart from True Detective with less family issues, but still has plenty of problems to make him an interesting hardboiled detective. Kate Winslet plays something totally different than what I have seen her do in the past as the female mob boss with no heart. Both were great, just for different reasons.

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This film has some interesting cinematography with a very film noir feel. No, it isn’t in black and white, but you do get a feel of black and red, as you can see from the posters and I found that coloring throughout the film. John Hillcoat is one of those directors that consistently makes good films, but seems to stay under the radar. If you haven’t seen Lawless, do it! I look forward to seeing more from Hillcoat in the future.

So back to our original question, is this worth going to the theater to see? I enjoyed this film and found it an above average movie. This film doesn’t cover any real new ground, but twists up old themes into a story I found complex and well put together. The acting is top notch and though it isn’t an instant classic I would say noir fans will enjoy this film and it is worth going to a matinee to see it, even if that matinee is 100 miles away.

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Favorite Tidbit: Look for Michael Kenneth Williams in a small role like you have never seen him before. If you are not looking for him, you may miss him.

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Re-Watching the Best of 2014: True Detective Season 1

LjGKxgQP I started this site in January of this year, and there are a handful of great neo-noirs that came out last year I didn’t get to cover.  I know everybody has already seen these and probably wrote their own review.  I still wanted to re-watch these films and television series again and put my own review out there on the world-wide web.  Here is the first of those reviews. True Detective is an original series from noir author Nic Pizzolatto.  I have read Pizzolatto’s novel Galveston before watching this series and found it a very good book.  Something fans of the show may want to read. This anthology series stars Matthew McConaughey as Rust and Woody Harrelson as Marty.  I would classify both as hardboiled,  Rust being the more so of the two. k14lysr4msp2q5887mjy This story starts out with our duo getting interviewed by two detectives played by Michael Potts and Tory Kittles.  Both are being interviewed individually about a case that happened 17 years ago.  In typical noir fashion we get our story with a series of flashbacks.  We quickly see our detectives are worse for wear 17 years after the story started and through 8 episodes we find out why. Our case from 17 years ago is a murder where the body has been staged in a ritualistic way.  This case has no suspects or witnesses and very few clues to go on.  The clues also leads to some missing children cases that may be related to the murder.  Our story takes us to dive bars, whore houses, meth labs, stripper bars, burned down churches and lots of Louisiana backwoods locations. We have a bunch of great characters in this, some are small parts and some are much bigger.  Our lead female, is Marty’s wife played by Michelle Monaghan.  Marty, and Rust for that matter, keep her away from the darkness of the case.  I would consider her Rust’s femme fatale.  We also get two more interesting femme fatales, though they are not part of the murders they do trip up Marty in his private life.  Alexandra Daddario appears in the first half and Lili Simmons in the second half. The show plays more like an 8 hour movie then a television show.  You will want to watch the next episode as soon as you finish one.  The story is intricate, intriguing, and addictive.  The music is dark and fits the southern Gothic feel, T Bone Burnett did a great job with the score. We will be getting a season 2 of True Detective this summer.  It has a high standard to live up to and I hope it can.  The new cast looks outstanding and the trailer looks great.  We go from our country noir setting to one of the most famous of noir locales in Los Angeles.  Can Pizzolatto keep the dark, intensity with the city landscape, a new story, and a new cast?  I look forward to seeing it and if it’s as good as the first season we are in for a treat.

Review: A Scanner Darkly: Movie versus Book

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Scanner Darkly is a book by Philip K. Dick, a SciFi legend in literature.  Dick may be one of the earliest writers to combine the science fiction genre with noir style.  If you are not familiar with Dick as an author you are familiar with his work.  His most famous work is probably “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” but you will recognize its big screen neo-noir adoption “Blade Runner.”  I hope to review both that movie and book on this blog at a later time.  Scanner Darkly may be less science fiction and more noir then his other works.  It is also his most personal and autobiographical book.  This book may disguise itself in a fictional world, but it is very close to Dick’s personal life under the influence of drugs.  Him and his friends are paranoid of everything and don’t know who to trust in their everyday lives. Substance D is the drug in the world of Scanner Darkly and our protagonist Bob Arctor is an undercover cop in this world.  This book, written in 1977 won many awards in the science fiction literary world.

I watched this movie back when it came out, recently read the book and then re-watched the movie to compare the two.  I can see why most thought this book would not be film-able.  The scramble suits would have been my main concern if I was a fan of this book in the 70’s and found out someone was going to try to put it to film.

Then enters one of the best directors in modern film, Richard Linklater.  Though Linklater doesn’t typically do much noir type films, he has made some of the best independent films of the last 25 years.  Linklater takes some risks, but I really liked the final product.  The biggest one is taking one of the biggest, most talented casts around, shots the film with them over the course of 23 days, then spends 18 months animating it.  This gives the film a very cool look, almost in the way black and white transformed the real world in the classic era of film-noir the animation transforms the modern world of southern California.

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The cast of this doesn’t get much better.  Robert Downey Jr. may be the biggest star in this film, but when it was made he was still doing little movies while he worked through his own drug issues.  This is great casting and if you like Downey you will like him in this part.  Our lead is played by Keanu Reeves, playing the undercover cop that maybe to undercover for his own good.  He is in love with Donna, played by Winona Ryder, unfortunately she may not feel the same way. Woody Harrelson plays a friend of Bob, that is also addicted to substance D.  Rory Cochrane, a Linklater favorite also plays a key role.

So should you read the book or watch the movie?  I will say if I had to choose one, I would go with the movie.  The book and movie are both great and if you can, I would look at reading the book and then watching the movie.  This is an interesting take on the underground drug world of the 1970’s, and a neo-noir classic.