Do a Shot: every time someone gets shot.
Take a Drink: every time a character takes a drink or does a drug.
Take a Drink: for every use of the color red.
Do a Shot: every time Woody Harrelson does something police officers shouldn’t do.
Sip Your Drink: for every use of the word “fuck.”
By: Hawk Ripjaw (Two Beers) –
A bank in Atlanta is forcibly relieved of a safety deposit box via robbers Michael Atwood (Chiwetel Ejiofor), Gabe Welch (Aaron Paul), Russell Welch (Norman Reedus), Franco Rodriguez (Clifton Collins Jr), and Marcus Belmont (Anthony Mackie). The latter two are police officers. All of them are in service to the Russian mafia led by Irina Vlaslov (Kate Winslet). In the force itself, recent transfer and talented cop and family man Chris Allen (Casey Affleck) has just been partnered with an extremely reluctant Marcus, leery of Chris catching onto him as a dirty cop.
Sergeant Jeffrey Allen (Woody Harrelson) is slowly tracking down the perpetrators of the heist, while Irina has coerced the robbers into performing another heist, with a time constraint and the threat of not only the death of their friends, but Michael never seeing his daughter (and Irina’s neice) again. Their idea to pull of the heist: A Triple 9- police code for a slain officer, and the one thing that will draw the city’s police attention away from the heist. They’ve chosen their target, and it’s Chris.
With one of the biggest A-list casts of the year, Triple 9 boasts a fantastic ensemble and each of them do great work. Norman Reedus, who you all know as the best character on The Walking Dead, has a fairly minor turn but still lights up the screen. Casey Affleck continues to prove how powerful a performance can be without saying much at all. Woody Harrelson is weirder than he’s been in years, but still manages to give a surprising amount of nuance to his character, while Chiwetel Ejiofor makes his character a bit more complex than “bank robber #2” would suggest. Honestly, they’re all great.
As can be expected from John Hillcoat, this is a fantastically directed film. From the way Hillcoat switches up his cinematography based on the situation at hand to the interesting use of the color red, it is simply enthralling to look at. A midpoint breach in which the camera remains mostly fixated on Chris’ face behind a riot shield as he coolly directs officers left and right through the labyrinthine rooms of an apartment complex contrasts nicely with a climactic handheld scene with Sergeant Allen racing through the streets of Atlanta.
To boot, composer Atticus Ross (The Social Network with Trent Reznor), teaming this time with Claudia Sarne, Leopold Ross, and Bobby Krlic, delivers a smashing success with the score; from a ripping opening theme that weaves what sounds like radio feedback with pulsing electronics to slower, more tense ambiance, the soundtrack is a hugely pleasant surprise.
While the characters have good, believable dialogue, they’re not very well fleshed out, and many of them lack any sort of arc. They could have just as well been named after their Cop Movie archetypes and it wouldn’t matter. While the believable dialogue makes them all seem more realistic as human beings, the storyline of the movie doesn’t service a concept of “people in another crazy week” and as such ends up being mildly dissatisfying in a traditional film structure.
There are plot points here and there that, true to form for the genre, seem to rely on convenient coincidences. Perhaps that’s intentional, as Harrelson’s Sergeant Allen remarks at least two or three times on the nature of coincidence. It’s here that you start to wonder how much subtext the movie is trying to play on, but in the grander scheme it feels like an underdeveloped idea. In a perfect world, Triple 9 would have made a showstopper of a miniseries.
In our world, it’s a slightly flawed, occasionally predictable, but still pretty damn gripping police drama.
And it has Norman Reedus.