Directed by John Hillcoat | Written by Matt Cook | 115 min | ▲▲▲△△
Australian director Hillcoat is a deliverer of masculine, violent genre tales such as The Proposition and Lawless. While he’s not colluding with his partner-in-crime Nick Cave this time out, this picture isn’t much of a departure in a story of (mostly) bad men. If anything the violence is more acute. What’s been especially intensified is the suspense and the octane of the action set-pieces, making for a bullheaded, relentless crime movie, the illegitimate offspring of Michael Mann’s Heat.
Anthony Mackie and Clifton Collins Jr are dirty Atlanta cops working heists with Chiwetel Ejiofor and Norman Reedus’ former military guys. They do a job for Russian Jewish gangsters, led by OTT sisters Kate Winslet (!) and Gal Gadot.
The gangsters are stringing the thieves along—Gadot’s character has custody of the son she shares with Ejiofor, using him a bargaining chip. It forces the crew to do one more heist, something so difficult they need a diversion: killing a cop—a code 999 in police communications —that will bring every other lawman in the city to the scene, leaving a better chance of success elsewhere. A cunning plan. The patsy is a new badge in the division, family man Casey Affleck, nephew to another scummy—but not dirty—cop, a scenery-chewing performance from Woody Harrelson. The loose cannon in all this is Aaron Paul, playing a junkie who can’t hold it together.
The drama is pure b-movie pulp, but the action sequences rock and roll in the best possible way. Like the Atlanta-shot 1980s Burt Reynolds thriller Sharkey’s Machine, Triple 9 will never get listed by Georgia’s tourism board for showing the garden spots of the state’s largest city, but the metropolis manifests as a real presence in the picture, a greasy cinematic cesspit of street gangs, corruption, organized crime and drug addicts. In other words, a perfect place for all this to go down.