Bad cops, bad cops, whatcha gonna do? John Hillcoat’s crime thriller Triple 9 jumps us right into the action. We’re in “Atlanta, Georgia, United States,” as the screen so helpfully tells us, and one gritty, hot Southern night we hear a handful of cops complain about their extracurricular bosses, a cadre of Russian gangsters. But they agree to one last job (uh oh) — a complicated heist that will need the mother of all cop distractions, a triple-9 (the code for “officer down”).
Cops killing another cop to cover up a gang crime? You know this isn’t going to end well, especially when the new cop (Casey Affleck) looks like a by-the-booker. And truly, Triple 9 offers almost no narrative surprises. It lines up a lot of thinly sketched (though more diverse than usual) characters, and we wait to see what order they fall down in.
It’s a piece of overly serious pulp that does boast an impressive roster of talent, including Chiwetel Ejiofor, Anthony Mackie, Aaron Paul and Walking Dead favorite Norman Reedus. They, and Affleck, play this dreck like it matters (it doesn’t). Meanwhile, Kate Winslet, as a blowsy but lacquered Russian gangster boss, and Woody Harrelson, as a doobie-smokin’ trainwreck of a good cop, are enjoying themselves chewing up the scenery, because why not?