Director: John Hillcoat
Cast: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Atwood, Casey Affleck, Kate Winslet, Woody Harrelson
Forget about the mean streets of Los Angeles and New York. For a change, the action of this bristling crime thriller unfolds in the even more dangerous alleyways of Atlanta, Georgia.
A couple of corrupt cops (Anthony Mackie-Clifton Collins Jr) are in cahoots with a band of mercenaries led by an ex-armed forces veteran (Ejiofor, all sweat and swagger).
Blackmailed by the Russian mafia, the ne’er-do-wells pull of a bank robbery in broad daylight. But their debt to the mobsters isn’t entirely paid off.
Now tasked with performing another near-impossible heist, the career criminals formulate a plan involving the murder of a rookie detective (Affleck, in cracking form).
Triggering the titular code ‘999: Officer down’ to divert the attention of the law enforcers, the badfellas hope to snatch the requisite computer discs (a McGuffin if ever there was one) from a high-security safe house.
Not surprisingly, the job goes very, very wrong. Caught in a tangled web of greed, deception and vengeance, the gang strives to keep the subsequent events from spiralling out of control.
Australian director John Hillcoat, whose resume includes the outback western The Proposition (2005) and the dystopian drama The Road (2009), peppers the narrative with moments of shocking brutality.
Triple 9 is best during the first third, introducing its rogues’ gallery of characters and detailing their daily grind. Unfortunately, the last third is weighed down by predictable thriller trappings.
The introduction of a know-it-all investigating police officer (Woody Harrelson, mercurial as ever) lends levity to the proceedings. On the other hand the women characters, including the mafia matriarch’s scantily clad sister (Gal Gadot), merely provide the mandatory eye candy.
The only exception is Kate Winslet. Donning blonde bouffant and dark-blue eyeliner, the Titanic star almost steals the show in her all-too-brief role of the ruthless dominatrix.
Certainly not in the class of gangster flicks by such masters as Martin Scorcese or Michael Mann, Triple 9 is nevertheless worth the price of admission.