Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Anthony Mackie, Casey Affleck, Kate Winslet, Woody Harrelson, Clifton Collins Jr., Aaron Paul, Norman Reedus, Gal Gadot, Teresa Palmer
Rated R for Strong Violence and Language Throughout, Drug Use and Some Nudity
Am I the only one who's getting tired of these "gritty" crime movies that substitute graphic violence and frenetic camerawork for good storytelling, macho posturing and angst for character development, and angry guys with a perpetual five-o'clock shadow for people worth caring about? Don't get me wrong, I'm as happy as the next guy that Hollywood has resumed making action movies for adults, but come on guys! Who thought that "Triple 9" was actually worth releasing into theaters?
The set-up is promising, if more than a little derivative. A group of corrupt cops, led by Michael (Ejiofor), who isn't a cop, are in debt with Irina Vlaslov (Winslet), a Russian Jewish mob boss. Their last job had complications, but while it got done, Irina wants more. However, this job is going to be more time-consuming than possible, given the response time to a bank robbery. Being cops, they know that the only thing that will give them the time they need to pull it off is a 999, or the death of a cop. Marcus (Mackie) volunteers his new partner, Chris (Affleck), whom he doesn't like, as the victim. Also in the mix is Chris's uncle Jeff (Harrelson), who is a member of the Major Case Squad, and is investigating the robbery pulled off by Michael and his crew.
So it isn't the most original plot, but with a little TLC and a director willing to take some risks (not to mention some semblance of talent), it could have been a good, possibly even great, film. Alas, we have John Hillcoat directing it. As has been established by the previous entries on his resume, like "Lawless," he's the Michael Mann-equivalent of the Time Out New York crowd: he takes everything deadly seriously in an attempt to cover the fact that he's the emperor with no clothes.
Aside from giving the film more weight than it deserves, it's simply bad on its own level. The story is a mess and rarely makes sense. The characters, if one can call them that, are not only unlikable, but they're boring. For example, Woody Harrelson plays a drunk who talks like his has a mouth full of chew and its too tough to express himself. Granted, it's the kind of thing that he does so well, but he's been playing variations on the same character for the better part of the last decade. It's grown so old that it's become irritating rather than riveting. The other leads aren't even given that much dignity. All of them have talent, but here, they're all interchangeable. At least "Takers" had the decency to make the guys look sexy. Hillcoat has them grunt and grumble their way through the disaster of a plot.
Really, do I need to say more? A better question would be do I want to say more. The answer is no. Ignore this waste of time and watch "Heat" again instead. You'll thank me later.