Australian director John Hillcoat (The Proposition, The Road, Lawless) loves wallowing in the muck with bad guys, and his latest film, Triple 9, is full of them. Don’t let the badges fool you, the majority of these characters are covered in dirt and crooked as a curly fry. The title refers to the police code for “officer down” (and further, in several countries overseas, 9-9-9 is the equivalent of 9-1-1). After a crew of cops/robbers successfully pull off a heist for the Russian Mafia, they find themselves in the tough position of having to complete another more difficult task in order to receive full payment. The bold plan calls for a triple 9 cop kill as a necessary diversionary tactic.
The cast is stacked. Casey Affleck and Anthony Mackie pair well as the new cop on the block and the crooked vet he’s partnered with, respectively. Clifton Collins Jr., Chewitel Ejiofer, and Woody Harrelson are solid too. Aaron Paul sports one of the worst haircuts in movie history. Michael Williams (Omar from The Wire) shines in a small role. Kate Winslet plays a Russian-Israeli crime matriarch and for better or worse, she’s the most memorable part of an otherwise decent, but forgettable film. It’s interesting to watch her in the role; she isn’t bad by any means, but it is an odd fit. She rocks a big blonde bouffant, makeup like Mimi from The Drew Carey Show, and a gold Star of David medallion. She means business, talkin’ greasy in a thick Russian accent.
The movie takes place in the gritty underworld of Atlanta. I haven’t been to the ATL, and while I’m sure it’s a lovely city, the one depicted on screen is not. The movie’s dark and it features a gloomy wasteland full of cutthroat connivers out for self. No one can be trusted. Triple 9 has shades of Training Day and The Town, but it never reaches their heights. It’s worth checking out if you’re into grim crime films like Gone Baby Gone and Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, though it isn’t as gripping as the former or as funny as the latter, and it lacks the visual panache of The Departed and the masterful storytelling of Before the Devil Knows Your Dead. Triple 9 has a mediocre story that feels muddled at times, but it boasts fine performances from it’s stellar cast and is a serviceable B picture.
3 out of 5 Nerdskulls.
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