Tough talk and morally muddled pragmatism suffuses John Hillcoat’s Triple 9, a cops-as-robbers heist thriller, set in Atlanta, Georgia. The crew of anti-heroes includes a couple of crooked cops (a taut Anthony Mackie and smoldering Clifton Collins Jr.), two brothers (Norman Reedus and Aaron Paul, in Jesse Pinkman meltdown mode), and an ex-military with mob ties (Chiwetel Ejiofor). Ejiofor’s character has a son with a Russian-Jewess (eye candy Gal Gadot) whose sister (the iffy Kate Winslet) is materfamilias of a mob. After a heist and an unexpected murder, more characters join the fray: an ex-soldier boy-next-door (Casey Affleck) and his uncle, an eccentric bad-lieutenant type (funny Woody Harrelson). The narrative is expertly juggled, even if some of the characters and dialogue are hackneyed/potboiler; Triple 9 lacks the poetry of a William Monahan or Cormac McCarthy script. Still, the grainy cinematography (Nicolas Karakatsanis) and crisp editing (Dylan Tichenor), occasional aerials and coherent action pieces, plus crudeness and violence and brief nudity, make Triple 9 a gritty throwback to nineties thrillers. Unfortunately, the female roles (Teresa Palmer plays boy-next-door’s oddly pale wife) are underwritten, and Triple 9 lacks digressions in narrative, and it unravels in its final act because its wrap-up is too neat. Yet, the tense mood of Triple 9 dominates, thanks to brisk pacing and an effective, mostly ambient score (Bobby Krlic, Atticus Ross, Leopold Ross, Claudia Sarne).
In English & Russian & Spanish.
By Alec Julian & Carrie White