film reel image

film reel image

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Triple 9 2016 * * 1/2 Stars

Triple 9Director: John Hillcoat
Year: 2016
Rated R
Rating: * * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Casey Affleck, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Anthony Mackie, Aaron Paul

Atlanta, GA as a locale, almost projected itself to be the main character in 1981's Sharky's Machine. Cut to 2016 and Triple 9 (my latest review) portrays ATL as modern-day Beirut.

With assured direction by John Hillcoat (Lawless), a capable cast, and Kate Winslet going almost unrecognizable as a Russian Mafia associate, "9" belongs in a cinematic guilty pleasure of mine: The crime thriller drama. Immediately after viewing its trailer (in December), I was reminded of Illinois native/badass screenwriter David Ayer. Granted, this isn't the David Ayer of Training Day and Street Kings (two of my favorites in the genre). Triple 9 is more like Sabotage David Ayer being Georgia-based, dirtied up, and lacking in emotional resonance not to mention secreted tension. Yeah heads are dismembered, officers go rogue, tats are abundant, and street gang initiations get mucky. "9" doesn't however, shake you with these images. It's just another day where actors talk tough and draw blood.

Including a lot of troupers that fade in and out while harboring admirable screen time, Triple 9 tells the story of two corrupt cops (Anthony Mackie as Marcus Atwood and Clifton Collins, Jr. as Jorge Rodriguez) teaming up with three hardened criminals (played by actors Aaron Paul, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Norman Reedus). Their initial mission: Commit robbery by stealing a safety deposit box holding information that could help a Russky mob boss get out of prison. Their next mission: Commit the same volatile act yet with much higher stakes. The five gentlemen have to pull off a Triple 9 to get it done. A Triple 9 according to the film's title, is a maneuver where an officer down call sends every member of the heat to the location of the relegated incident. Casey Affleck (as Chris Allen) plays the honest cop who gets embroiled in said Triple 9, Woody Harrelson (as detective Jerry Allen) plays his concerning uncle, and Hotlanta plays atmospheric chic with its view of destitution and click click multitude. Viktor Bout called and he wants his guns back (ha ha).

Now director John Hillcoat with his excessive use of close-ups, shoots "9" as if it's a horror snuff pic. He turns Atlanta's unsavory environment into a complete war zone. Most of the homicidal sequences featured are in broad daylight. And in staging several car chases and gunfights, Hillcoat renders every effect sloppy if not realistic and lifelike. His work behind the camera isn't necessarily the problem. It's the script by unknown Matt Cook and some rushed editing by Dylan Tichenor (Child 44) that become Triple 9's main Achilles' heel. Instead of effectively spouting long-winded soliloquies about (authentic) PoPo corruption and partaking in juicy one-liners (revert back to David Ayer, paragraph two), "9's" characters mire every word of dialogue in the form of F-bombs and muddled, good cop/bad cop arguments. Bottom line: With Triple 9's every stand alone kill, every obvious double-cross, and every exploding body part, you feel Denzel Washington did it better fifteen years ago by simply saying, "King Kong ain't got sh*t on me!" Rating: A mixed but strong 2 and a half stars. "Number 9, number 9, number 9". Natch.

Written by Jesse Burleson

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