Director: John Hillcoat ( The Proposition) Starring: Kate Winslet, Woody Harrelson, Casey Affleck, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Anthony Mackie, Aaron Paul Verdict: No safety in this number
THE title of this unorthodox crime drama is coded American policespeak for “officer down”.
There are moments aplenty in Triple 9 where viewers may want to put out a distress call on behalf of the movie.
However, while its vital signs might fluctuate wildly, there is a gritty resolve to this tale that ultimately rewards any perseverance sent its way. There is just one proviso in play here, and for some, it could be a deal- breaker.
When faced with the choice between clear, cohesive storytelling and murky, malicious atmospherics, Australian director John Hillcoat ( Lawless, The Road) will go for the latter every time.
We open in the city of Atlanta, where a bank robbery is already underway.
These crooks clearly know their individual roles in the heist, which runs like clockwork until they hit the road in full getaway mode. However, not even the sudden explosion of a dye bomb can throw these pros off their game. Minutes later, the group reconvene beneath a freeway overpass for a quick change of clothes and vehicles. As they swap notes over what just went down, it emerges these are no ordinary crooks.
Most of them are police officers. A good few will be checking in for work down at HQ within the hour.
However, if you think you’re in for just another corrupt- cop thriller, you’ve got another thing coming.
First of all, Triple 9 never quite works itself into the frenzied state of activity that would justify the tag of ‘ thriller’.
Secondly, these officers of the law are not the ones pulling the strings in this top- secret operation. The brains of the outfit is a foreign crime baroness, and she is a real piece of work. Not only does Irina Vlaslov ( Kate Winslet with a thick Russki accent) have the cops in town in her pocket. She also has several federal agents on the payroll as backup.
Though Winslet is used sparingly as Triple 9’ s most vicious villain, she does exude a force field of menace that explains how she can move Atlanta’s finest around as if they are pawns on a chessboard.
Winslet’s show- stealing performance is so vivid and fully realised that it can make the work of her fellow actors ( particularly the usually solid Chiwetel Ejiofor) seem a bit unstructured by comparison.
Woody Harrelson ( as a clean detective who gets the inkling there are dirty rats in the ranks) and Casey Affleck ( another straight cop, but oblivious to his bent cohorts) supply the strongest work from an uneven support cast.