Review: Triple 9, C+
Rated R, 115 minutes
There's something to be said for the saying "I have your back." In the world of criminals, that may not always be a good thing, which is the subject of the tense but uneven new cop drama "Triple 9" (which is the police code for "officer down") from John Hillcoat ("Lawless"). Featuring a terrific ensemble cast and some nicely handled fraught moments, a wobbly, highly implausible last act nearly kills an otherwise solid crime film. Bullets fly on the Atlanta freeway as armed thieves make their getaway following a bank robbery in broad daylight. Unhappy with the results, ruthless Russian gangster Irina Vlaslov (Kate Winslet) orders crew lead Michael Belmont (Chiwetel Ejiofor) to pull off another job. One of Belmont's crew is Marcus Atwood (Anthony Mackie), a crooked cop saddled with Chris Allen (Casey Affleck), his new but incorruptible police partner. As Belmont and his cohorts lay the groundwork for the heist, they come up with a devious plan to use Allen as their pawn. "Triple 9" is a serviceable but sluggish cop drama, aided by a handful of strong performances and some taut moments that will have you looking in your back seat after you get in your car. Most of the cast performs well, particularly Mackie, Affleck and the always watchable Eijofor, though it's Woody Harrelson in a supporting role who comes in and steals most of the scenes, chewing on scenery as if he owned the place (the film's final shot of a bloody Harrelson is a nice moment). Not all come across well, though: "Breaking Bad's" Aaron Paul and "Walking Dead's" Norman Reedus are wasted in the movie's weakest, most expendable subplot that could've been trimmed from the film, and current Oscar nominee Winslet is miscast as the Russian gangster, her Russian accent coming and going. "Triple 9" works decently until the over-the-top last act, when bodies, bullets and blood fly, sparing few cast members in what feels more like a movie and not real life, which has much more gray than the black and white issues portrayed here. The mildly entertaining but flawed "Triple 9" gets some runs on base for a good first half, then strikes out near the end.