‘Triple 9,’ the latest feature from director John Hillcoat, is a hard-boiled cat-and-mouse crime thriller in the tradition of ‘Point Break,’ ‘Heat,’ ‘The Town’ and ‘The Departed.’ Fans of the Australian auteur (‘Lawless,’ ‘The Road’ and ‘The Proposition’) will no doubt find much to like in ‘Triple 9’ (the law enforcement code for “Officer Down!”) because it is every bit as dark, violent and amoral as his previous films.
‘Triple 9’ centers on a team of professional criminals, two of whom are crooked Atlanta's finest while the other three are ex-military and former Blackwater employees. The movie kicks off with a bang as our team of red-masked bad guys armed with military assault rifles and other gear rob a bank and make good their escape. But it isn’t simply a daring cash grab in broad daylight and a “fuck you” to the cops a la’ ‘Heat,’ oh no. Our robbers are under the thumb of the Russian mob in the guise of Irina Vlaslov (Kate Winslet with a faux Russian accent). The bank robbery was only the easy part, as our unfortunate team finds out when they’re given their next impossible mission.
If you like edgy, ultraviolent and nihilistic crime noir with its share of twists and double-crosses, ‘Triple 9’ will not disappoint. The movie’s talented ensemble includes Chiwetel Ejiofor, Anthony Mackie, Casey Affleck, Aaron Paul, Norman Reedus and Woody Harrelson, who made the most out of his limited screen time as the jaded pot-smoking Atlanta police detective sergeant assigned to apprehend the criminals. The most despicable evil villain in the movie, however, isn’t Kate the ruthless Russian mafiosa but the corrupt homicide detective played by Clifton Collins, Jr., whose Franco Rodriguez would make even Vic Mackey look positively saintly by comparison.