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Genre director John Hillcoat takes on a colorful canvas in ‘Triple 9’

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From left, Aaron Paul, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kate Winslet, Anthony Mackie and director John Hillcoat appear at the London premiere of “Triple 9.” (Joel Ryan/Invision/AP)

“Triple 9” reveals Australian-born John Hillcoat to be a great director of tough genre films.

“There are so many tricks and so much eye candy in cinema. What I love about the classicism of genre is that there’s a discipline. I think it’s a healthy thing to resist all that candy,” says Hillcoat, who visited The City to discuss the movie, which opens Friday.

Following the Western “The Proposition,” the post-apocalyptic “The Road” and the gangster film “Lawless,” “Triple 9” changes direction: It’s set in present-day Atlanta.

After finishing “The Road,” Hillcoat says he was longing for something exactly opposite.

“I was itching to do something contemporary and urban, energetic, with rich colors and sound — color noir, but updated,” says Hillcoat. “This throws away those anchors that we’re used to in drama, so that you’re more in this soup of humanity. We’re in a world where everything is very duplicitous. It’s very murky.”

The movie centers on a team of robbers, consisting of dirty cops (Anthony Mackie, Clifton Collins Jr.) and career criminals (Aaron Paul, Norman Reedus). Their leader (Chiwetel Ejiofor) who married into the Russian-Jewish mob, must deal with the terrifying Irina Vlaslov (Kate Winslet).

The amazing cast also includes Teresa Palmer, Gal Gadot, Michelle Ang, Casey Affleck (as a good cop), and Woody Harrelson (as a detective).

Hillcoat credits the cast with bringing “a lot to the table in terms of detail.”

For example, though Affleck’s character isn’t directly defined, it’s easy to infer he’s a war veteran, suffering some kind of PTSD and craving action.

“He’s tightly wound,” says Hillcoat. “He’s got this steely veneer. He’s got this energetic thing… always chewing gum, always in motion. That was Casey’s idea, that he’s never still.”

Winslet apparently never played a villain before, and Hillcoat says she was “excited.” The resulting performance is extraordinary, even blowing away her current Oscar-nominated role in “Steve Jobs.”

Hillcoat says, “There are people in the industry that know Kate, and they see her in the film and they say, ‘Wow! She’s so much like Kate Winslet! Where did they find her?’”

Next, Hillcoat says he’d like to do something completely new with genre films: focus on women. “I am very keen to do a film that’s female-led,” he says. “I love working with great actresses and strong women, but these types of genres, it’s very hard to find those roles.”


Triple 9
Starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Anthony Mackie, Casey Affleck, Kate Winslet
Written by Matt Cook
Directed by John Hillcoat
Rated R
Running time 1 hour, 55 minutes