Open Road Films
With limited time and resources, it seems like most movies I purchase these days are purely out of spite. Take The Proposition. It’s a wonderful film but a tough watch; I certainly had no intention of ever buying it after seeing it in theaters. But when I saw it in a 7-Eleven bargain bin for only a dollar – just a disc in a sleeve, minus its original case – I felt like it was a movie that needed to be rescued. Like that time I bought ten copies of Brick because they were in a $2.99 bin at Wal-Mart and gave them out to strangers. Some people rescue pets, I rescue DVDs.
And that brings me to a film I’m sure I’ll be spending a lot of time rescuing in 2020 and beyond, the newest crime thriller by noted violent existentialist John Hillcoat. I’d like to say that I had Triple 9 circled on my calendar this entire year, but the moving release date made that pretty hard to pull off. I will say that I voted for it in the Film School Rejects poll of the Most Anticipated Films of 2015. And now, with a gorgeous new red band trailer and a February 2016 release date, I can finally break out the red marker.
Forget the cast for a moment; if you can’t find at least one performance worth getting excited about in the film, then you probably haven’t watched a lot of movies over the last decade. Let’s talk about John Hillcoat. More than any other director working today, Hillcoat is responsible for updating the Western mythology – the fatalism and post-modern angst that his films share with those of the sixties and seventies – to an industry that has mostly left the Western behind. It’s often been said – by me, to myself, while I’m shaving – that the post-apocalyptic film is the successor to the American Western; in moving from The Proposition to The Road, Hillcoat has found a way to send his gunslingers out from modernity and back into the wilderness. And it’s this kind of storytelling that bodes so very, very well for Triple 9.
Of course, there’s also no getting around that final sequence in the trailer: people getting on top of cars and shooting indiscriminately into a crowd. Scenes of violence in urban centers have become procedural de rigueur ever since Michael Mann’s climactic sequence in Heat. It was only a few months ago that True Detective ended a key episode on a public shoot-out, and despite the show’s attempt to make it a transformative moment in the arc of the season, it just ended up being a watery tribute to better films. The fact that scenes of mass gunfire are both ubiquitous and boring isn’t a great place to be; scenes like this might put Triple 9 in a compromised place in the market (if, you know, anyone actually cared about gun control).
Then again, Hillcoat’s films have always treated violence as something with lasting repercussions; not something to be engaged in lightly and not something you walk away from cleanly. We’ve still got a few months to go, but so far the only thing I don’t like about Triple 9 is that it doesn’t come with a Nick Cave soundtrack. Fingers crossed I can find one of those in a 7-Eleven, too.