Directed by John Hillcoat
Released February 26, 2016
In the cinematic world, it sometimes seems like there are just as many corrupt cops as there are true-blue good-natured officers of the law. There are degrees of corruption, starting with taking bribes or letting people off when they receive speeding tickets. In some cases, however, there is little distinguishing a cop from a criminal, and that has likely never been truer than in “Triple 9,” which finds a group of cops desperate to pull off a heist turn to the commission of a 9-9-9, killing a police officer, to distract the attention of those who might get in their way.
However vulgar and violent it may be, “Triple 9” has assembled a truly all-star cast. Introduced in the opening scene are the main players, military man Michael Atwood (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and his cop friends, Marcus Belmont (Anthony Mackie), brothers Russell Welch (Norman Reedus) and Gabe Welch (Aaron Paul), and Franco Rodriguez (Clifton Collins, Jr.). Atwood comes with considerable baggage, namely a son with the woman who happens to be the sister of a powerful Russian mafia queen, Irina Vlaslov (Kate Winslet). Marcus sets his sights on his new entitled partner, Chris Allen (Casey Affleck), whose uncle, Jeffrey Allen (Woody Harrelson), is the lead detective investigating the crimes they are perpetrating, as the target of their planned execution.
One thing that “Triple 9” does extremely well is to create and maintain suspense. From the start, it’s a furious and intense journey filled with excessive violence and brutality. Irina and her henchmen are particularly awful, delighting at causing others pain. The cops aren’t much better, though their horrific acts seem much more focused and part of a larger plan rather than simply to inspire terror. It’s difficult to watch the disturbing events that make up much of this story, and it feels like a similar film with less deplorable and unsettling violence might have gotten the same point across.
Mackie’s Marcus makes sense as a cool cop with a secret dark side, but he’s about the only one. Collins’ seedy homicide detective Franco is too creepy to be believed as a good guy by anyone, and Paul’s Gabe is far too drugged-out and disheveled for anyone to take him seriously. Irina is also magnificently exaggerated, and the portrayal of her henchmen as religious Jews is a pointless and wholly unnecessary subplot. The most legitimate character in the film is Ejiofor’s Michael, a man willing to do anything to stay alive and protect his son. The film that surrounds him is much less put-together and committed.
Thursday, March 3, 2016