At the movies: ‘Triple 9’
Special to Lake Tahoe Action
Directed By John Hillcoat
Starring Casey Affleck, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Anthony Mackie, Woody Harrelson, Kate Winslet, Aaron Paul, Norman Reedus, Clifton Collins Jr., Gal Gadot, Teresa Palmer
Open Road Films, Rated R, Thriller, 115 minutes
Shady and evil behaviors permeate “Triple 9,” an engrossing thriller-drama-heist movie that delivers many twists and turns.
Essentially, a gang of thieves that includes a crooked cop, is tasked with an impossible heist. In hopes of pulling if off, they concoct a clever, unimaginably nefarious plan.
Casey Affleck appears as the film’s hero, Chris Allen, a police officer newly transferred to the Atlanta PD gang task force, where he is assigned to partner with the crooked cop, Marcos Belmont (Anthony Mackie). Much of the gang unit’s job is a mix of SWAT meets Special Forces, a combination required to pursue criminals in the filthy Atlanta hellhole known as “The Projects.” Chris may be new to the squad but he knows his way around the streets and has the smarts to match his steely nerve.
Chris is assigned the most dangerous jobs. He is initially shunned and degraded until he saves the life of a fellow cop, thereby making his bones. Watched over by his Uncle Jeffrey Allen (Woody Harrelson), an Atlanta PD super-detective and sometime bad-boy, Chris is the film’s sole clean-cut character.
Kate Winslet appears as Irina Vlaslov, a ruthless Russian beauty willing to kill whomever and do whatever in order to free her husband from prison. This includes using kidnap and murder to extort Belmont and his gang of crooks (Aaron Paul, Norman Reedus and Chiwetel Ejiofor), whose inside information she believes will help to procure the items that will gain her imprisoned husband’s release.
Portraying a major city’s underbelly in the vein of “Taxi Driver” and HBO’s “The Wire,” the film embraces a violent, gritty reality without shielding the viewer. The death toll climbs relentlessly, as both despicable and sympathetic characters catch bullets or blades, the action draws us in. Rather than loud set pieces, these violent encounters are often quiet, bleak and lonely.
Appearing in less than half the film’s scenes, Affleck’s Chris is a highly alert, thoughtful gum-chewer. He leans on his wife for support, fleshing out an internal landscape of emotions he represses in order to maintain control. His uncle Jeffrey openly indulges in any handy drug for enjoyment and stress relief, leading his detective unit with a brash mixture determination and bullying.
Other characters, while given less screen time, feel fully realized. Chiwetel Ejiofor, Norman Reedus and Anthony Mackie play thieves resigned to take marching orders from the Russian Mafia, while fellow thief Aaron Paul (Gabe Welch), struggles with deciding to accept or disrupt a plan that he finds morally reprehensible.
Written by Matt Cook, and played on somber sets, much of the plot is clever and some of it even thoughtful. Mostly, it makes me clutch my chest in fear of ever living in the hopeless, dark world that I wish could be visited solely at the movies.
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