Rated: R for strong violence and language throughout, drug use and some nudity. Reviewed by: Jim Release date: February 26, 2016 Released by: Open Road Films
Screenwriter Mark Cook and director John Hillcoat weave a torrid wave of blackmail and deception set in Atlanta whose title refers to an officer down in police vernacular. Set to a rather tangy sax and keyboard score from Atticus Finch.
Triple 9 stars Chiwetel Ejofor (The Martian, 12 Years a Slave), Casey Affleck (The Finest Hours, Interstellar) and Kate Winslet (Oscar-nominated for Steve Jobs) among a roster of notable thespians.
Before conventionality begins to take over there is something interesting at play even if it works on the most superficial terms. Ejofor's former Black Ops corrupted officer Terrell Tompkins pulls a heist which Hillcoat stages with much dynamism involving a getaway car getting the logistics of
traffic issues unmistakably down to a tee.
But, there's much more daring involved for Terrell as he's inextricably linked to ruthless long-tressed Israeli/Russi crime boss Irina (Winslet, vivaciously going against type). The goal involves taking down a transfer officer Chris Allen (a rather brawny Affleck) for the distracting timeline.
A hesitancy around one last job and trying to make a difference are ripe among the twists that aren't easy to perceive amidst a rather visceral crime thriller (which unfortunately loses its pacing especially in its midsection) like this. It's evidenced from earlier Hillcoat opuses (Lawless, The Proposition) that it won't be for the faint of heart considering at least one or two instances of bloody mayhem with firearms of the magnum force variety.
The inter-relations of the characters (criminals and crooked) don't register like they should and the overall effect isn't what it should be given some tautly rendered sequences. While Anthony Mackie, Norman Reedus (of AMC's graphic novel-based original series The Walking Dead), and Aaron Paul are definitely up to the task as Terrell's military crew. And, Woody Harrelson is fine as the uncle Sgt. Detective of Chris who begins to learn what's going down and actually has at least one good moment opposite an often arresting Affleck.
The storyline isn't really able render the necessary subtext and shadings of any crucial empathy with those of varying moral relativity although the pain, desperation and vulnerability of Ejofor's Terrell is fairly palpable. Though Winslet (up from her imperious Jeanine in the Divergent films) can be one catty, cruel queen bee. Less opportunity is offered to busy Israeli actress and fashion model Gal Gadot (Furious 7 and busy as Diana Prince in upcoming DC Comics pics) as Terrell's ex-wife and Australian actress Teresa Palmer (The Choice, Warm Bodies) as Chris's wife.
If there is memories of The Asphalt Jungle and more recently Heat and The Town, Triple 9 packs the rough-and-tumble of its extremes between an ivied good and bad with detailed precision. Even if the effect from the polished execution lacks the quixotic, distinctive mercurial moxie of those lauded genre pictures. In addition to Hillcoat's earlier less mainstream efforts to deliver some quality edgy psychological as well as emotional intrigue.