“Triple 9” is the sort of machismo-infused cop movie that’s so filled with masculine preening and posturing by accomplished actors striving for authenticity in playing tough-guy types that it comes fully around the bend and lands on total phoniness.
That’s quite the achievement for a movie directed by John Hillcoat, who knows his way around hard-edged material; his terrific “The Proposition” stands as one of the best recent neo-Westerns. It’s even more impressive when you consider his ensemble: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Casey Affleck, Clifton Collins Jr., Kate Winslet, Norman Reedus, Woody Harrelson, Aaron Paul, Anthony Mackie and Gal Gadot.
Beneath the facade of grit — the soaring shots over concrete urban surfaces, the smoke-filled bars and strip clubs, the handheld tracking shots through darkened public housing corridors — the movie groans and strains in an effort to weave a cohesive narrative out of discordant parts.
It’s a crooked cop story ala “Training Day” couched in monumental convolutions, in which two officers (Mackie and Collins Jr.) and an ex-military explosives expert (Ejiofor), pull off heists for Kate Winslet, a bigwig in the Russian-Israeli Orthodox Jewish mob in Atlanta (yes, you read that right; this is perhaps the first American history in which the villains steal away to Israel). Casey Affleck, as Mackie’s straitlaced ex-Marine new partner, complicates things, and lots of angry men beat the hell out of other angry men, ad infinitum.
The movie gets the appearance right but plays like a fantasy vision of a cop picture rather than one derived, as its best counterparts have been, directly from the streets.
Directed by John Hillcoat
Starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Casey Affleck, Kate Winslet, Woody Harrelson