They conclude the only way to make it happen is to manufacture an officer down '999' call to give them the distraction they need in order to pull off the robbery, but things don't go to plan (do they ever?) when the newest cop on the force starts poking around and uncovering the scheme.
It's white-knuckle stuff for the most part and staggeringly violent, at times, but it's not all a success.
The best thing the film has going for it is Hillcoat. There's a taught efficiency to his direction. He's confident with the material and it shows. He's just as interested in the dealing of the gang on either side of their criminal activities as he is with the activities themselves.
They are far from the vague outlines we are so used to seeing in pictures of this ilk.
These guys are precision, laser-cut professionals operating on either side of the law.
They are defined as much from their behavior during the robberies as they are in the quieter more intimate moments. Character through action, not schmaltz.
Aided by Atticus Ross' pulsing, driving score there's a frenetic immediacy to the film.
Dual loyalties and shifting allegiances mean we're never sure who we're aligned with at any time which leaves us with a genuinely unpredictable finale.
When it comes to the action sequences they are some of the best we've seen since Michael Mann took downtown LA in '95 and that's mostly thanks to the character work. When they come they are impressively mounted, oozing legitimacy and a gritty verisimilitude. Scribe Matt Cook has done his homework on the dos-and-don't of police procedure in the field and Hillcoat plays it for what it's worth without making the film boastful and showy in its more bombastic moments.
In the quieter scenes the decidedly impressive A-List cast give it everything they got, which, sadly isn't much, and therein lies the films biggest gripe; there's very little room for character movement with all the chest-beating and cocky gum-chewing.
Those with Oscar-winning capabilities are largely reduced to one-note portrayals of cops or criminals but it's worth watching actors like this give it 100% even if the material only rates 80%, and even still, you can't help but feel you're being short-changed.
Casey Affleck, as Chris Allen, is a powder-keg of restrained explosiveness, gradually piecing it all together with the aid of his uncle, Jeffery (Woody Harrelson). One can't help but feel, however, that Kate Winslet is wasted in her three scenes as the matriarch of the Jewish 'Kosher Nostra' and Norman Reedus has a blink-and-you'll-miss-him extended cameo at the beginning. Shame.
We've seen it all before, sure, but rarely with this level of intelligence and certainly not with this caliber of cast.
As it stands, TRIPLE 9 is a good film but with another 20-minutes of character development across the board (that was probably left on the cutting room floor) reinstated, it could have been a great film.
She's charged with waiting for a Hazmat team to pick up bio-hazardous waste from the station's armory in the wee hours of morning, however unbeknownst to her, a hillbilly cult leader - John Michael Paymon - has haunted the station since the time he and two of this followers committed suicide one year ago to the exact date. It's not long before the weirdness starts; crazy homeless guys, power-outages and unexplained furniture movements.
From there it is a Carpenter-esque, slow-burn pot-boiler, gradually increasing its weirdness and drip-feeding viewers slivers of plot until we have all pieces of the puzzle.
It is ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 meets THE EXORCIST, and it's straight-up unapologetic about it too. But for those that think it might be a mindless cash-grab rehash, let's not forget Carpenter's original was a nod to RIO BRAVO; good artists borrow, great ones steal and all that.
That's not, however, to say DiBlasi is a great director, though he is a competent one. THE LAST SHIFT has the hallmarks of a comfortable filmmaker, who is considered and measured; there is more than one extended take in the film that floats through numerous rooms and hallways, drifting, orientating and disarming us before the bump-in-the-night strangeness escalates.
The first act is essentially Officer Loren in a building devoid of personality and distraction, but DiBlasi is savvy enough to make it interesting and engaging with nifty directorial flourishes (wait for the hair-raising incident in the empty locker-room...).
Nothing in the abandoned station quite works the way it should, helping to create an atmosphere of oppressive dread; pipes creak & groan, lights flicker and faucets leak. It all contributes to a palatable and creeping sense of dread; if the place you're seeking refuge in is barely functioning how safe can it be?
DiBlasi is also wise enough to know the success of the film largely rests on the casting of Officer Loren and he's knocked it out of the ball-park with Juliana Harkavy.
Harkavy is, frankly, ass-kickingly awesome as rookie blue-blood Loren. A tough-as-nails, take-no-shit lass that'll just as quickly taze you as she will call her mum. She's as tough as she is vulnerable and she is, thanks to Harkavy, believable!
Harkavy does well, latching on to that vulnerability and physicality, allowing the viewer to stand beside her as she discovers the horrors that wait for her minute-to-minute.
And that is one of the films strengths - DiBlasi's use of POV. We only ever experience what Loren is dealing with as she discovers it herself. We're never privy to anything one step beyond what we're presented. We're as curious, as frustrated and as scared as Loren, and in the end, we're never quite sure whether the events are actually happening or just in the rookie's head. When the scares come they never go for the gore approach. Instead it's the stuff that'll make your skin crawl and butt pucker. DiBlasi never takes the easy way out, but rather, ratchets up the tension until we can barely take it any more.
Solid stuff, for sure, but it's not without it's problems. While DiBlasi distracts us by wrapping us up in dread and foreboding, if you stop to think about things for longer than a heartbeat, nothing quite fits as well as it should.
For all the creepy shenanigans Loren endures, there's no real threat to her for most of the film. She's never really in any tangible danger. Sure, she's scared and she's confused but if she popped a couple sleeping pills and nodded off for a few hours she'd have probably woken feeling refreshed and as bright as a daisy. On top of that, there's never any real reason why Paymon would be haunting a derelict police station, let alone inflicting his madness on Loren (is it just because she happens to be there? Or does the year anniversary mean something else to him?) causing the kind of insanity he does.
These are small gripes though, particularly when the rest of the film is so much fun.
The first film was a whopping hit upon its release in 2013, making a ga-ga $320-million on a paltry $20-million budget; easily the most successful horror film of the year and even spawning a spin-off - ANNABELLE - produced by Wan and directed by his Conjuring cinematographer, John R. Leonetti.
It’s no surprise then that THE CONJURING 2 materialises a year later, striking while the iron is hot, to give us the continuing adventures of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga). This time the action is shifted from small-town Americana Rhode Island 1971 to working-class Enfield, England 1977 where single mother Peggy Hodgson (Frances O’Connor) believes a demonic spirit is haunting her home.
Before you can say ‘The Exorcist’ Peggy's youngest child starts showing signs of possession; speaking in tongues, lost memory, etc, and when the church finally gets involved so to, do the Warren’s. Ed and Lorraine zip to England and help the besieged family, only to find themselves targeted by the malicious spirit.
As far as design goes, Wan’s production is a handsomely mounted affair. The grimy England of the 70s is well realised - even if it does over-play the beige and brown colour palette - and the camerawork is second to none (with all-impossible maneuvers and wide-lens chaos) and Joseph Bishara’s score is suitably jangly.
As the Warren’s, Wilson and Farmiga maintain cruise control, never stepping outside of comfort to given us more wide-eyed determination, but that’s okay because that’s where we need them. Frances O’Connor turns it up to 11, bordering on caricature as the ‘cor blimey’ Mum at her wits end and spends great portions of the film with her hands over her mouth. Franke Potente turns up and is completely wasted as the disbeliever with very little to do.
Thankfully the scare sequences are impeccably staged, paced perfectly to the exact beat, which drains the viewer of resistance before launching the next jolt.
Wan has proven time and time again he is a fan of the genre, tipping his hat in each of his films to the inspirations that have come before him, and that’s the problem, because as good as his craftsmanship is (and it really is) we’ve seen it all before.
THE CONJURING 2, much like it’s predecessor, doesn’t have an original idea in it’s haunted head. The story is a heart-beat from THE EXORCIST and even some of the sequences in it’s (very long) 134-minute running time have almost been lifted from the first film.
This sequel's lighter moments are hamstrung by banal dialogue and awkward family bonding moments (singing around a guitar one night…) which is a crying shame because these are where - if done right - THE CONJURING 2 could have been elevated from chiller-with-family-elements to character-drama-that-happens-to-be-scary.
Not catastrophic then, but like we said, not the sum of it’s parts either.