Triple 9

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The biggest crime regarding this movie…is that there’s a talented cast that’s wasted on this script (thanks, Matt Cook). That’s odd, considering director John Hillcoat has done such different pictures: The Proposition (a western), Lawless (prohibition), and The Road (dystopia). What in the world made this Australian director want to go for the usual genre picture that would usually feature untalented folks like Wesley Snipes and Keanu Reeves? This cast includes Anthony Mackie and Chiwetel Ejiofor, two actors with amazing presence on screen. There’s Clifton Collins Jr., one of the most underrated actors in Hollywood. He can play southern sleazeballs, and also pull off comedy (anybody ever see the Mike Judge/Jason Bateman movie Extract?)

We get Woody Harrelson doing the wacky Woody character — the one that talks funny and does drugs in every seen. Knowing him, I wouldn’t be surprised if having a joint in his mouth in each scene was written into his contract.

Casey Affleck, coming off an interesting role in The Finest Hours, does another fine performance here. He’s the gritty rookie cop that asks the right questions, and has a fondness for gum. He plays Harrelson’s nephew.

Oh, and there’s Kate Winslet as a Russian-Jewish mob boss. You know she’s Jewish because she has the biggest Star of David around her neck I’ve ever seen. You know she’s Russian because she’s using a bad accent. Heck, she just got nominated for Steve Jobs, in which she does a passable accent. Wasn’t that enough?

It’s a shame she’s not more intimidating. Russians can be so scary on film. There’s the mobsters in Eastern Promises, the villains from James Bond, Air Force One, hell, even Rocky faced a dangerous Russian. The only thing that makes her the least bit intimidating are the dudes around her with AK-47s.

Her character name is Irina Vlaslov, which kinda sounds James Bondish. Irina has a crew of dirty cops and special ops guys working for her. They’re not the usual dirty cops that are just in it for money. These cops are being blackmailed to do that one last job. The blackmail involves the belief that there are some dirty FBI folks working with these mobsters, and a few of these cops have family members that are in danger (I think; sometimes things got a bit confusing in that regard).

For every good scene, there were two bad ones. Not a good ratio, especially when a cop movie is already fighting an uphill battle with me. All of them want to be Heat. Instead of learning from those understated characters, we usually get the over-the-top ones (Denzel in Training Day, for example). Woody wouldn’t have lasted more than a week with all the antics he’s involved in. That includes getting in the backseat of a car to question a woman, and then snorting her drugs. Another time, rushing to a crime scene a cop is involved in, and hitting all the other cars along the road that he’s zipping by.

I loved the first confrontation in a liquor store with Mackie and Affleck. It reminded me of the first confrontation in Lethal Weapon, when Danny Glover pulls Mel Gibson inside a mattress store to scold him for how he handled a suicidal jumper. Why can’t this script give us more writing like that, instead of characters that are so intelligent they can plan the perfect bank heist (the movie starts with this exhilarating scene), and those same characters somehow turn dumb later in the movie.

This feels like Rampart, meets The Departed, meets…oh hell, it’s like about 10 other bad crooked cop films that are a convoluted mess.

It holds your interest, and there’s some decent supporting work from two TV actors — Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad) and Norman Reedus (The Walking Dead).

It gets a bonus star for the inclusion of two Cypress Hill songs.

2 stars out of 5.

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