[Screen It]


(2016) (Casey Affleck, Chiwetel Ejiofor) (R)

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Crime Drama: A group of bad cops and ex-military ops plan to put another cop in harm's way in order to pull off a heist ordered by the mob.
In Atlanta, cops Marcus Atwood (ANTHONY MACKIE) and Jorge Rodriguez (CLIFTON COLLINS, JR.) have joined forces with ex-military ops Michael Belmont (CHIWETEL EJIOFOR), Russell Welch (NORMAN REEDUS) and that man's troubled brother, Gabe Welch (AARON PAUL), to form a criminal unit that works for Irina Vlaslov (KATE WINSLET). She runs a Jewish Russian mob organization while her husband serves time behind bars. Michael is her contact and he's further wrapped up in the crime family by having fathered a child with Irina's sister, Elena (GAL GADOT).

Their latest bank heist and its military style precision has Det. Jeffrey Allen (WOODY HARRELSON) on the case. He's a veteran of the force who, when not partaking in any number of drugs, has been responsible to some degree for his nephew, Chris Allen (CASEY AFFLECK), joining the force. Already seasoned through his work elsewhere, he bristles at how Marcus treats him on the streets, although he's unaware of his new cop partner's after hours activities.

Those now include another heist ordered by Irina, and one that will be decidedly more difficult to pull off. Accordingly, Rodriguez proposes that they utilize the downing of another cop -- known as code 999 -- in order to draw forces to that officer and thus away from their robbery. As that plan is put into motion, Chris is unaware that he's the target of their ploy.

OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
Since it takes a few years for most movies to go from genesis to finished product ready for viewing, I'm guessing we're soon going to be inundated with films related to the Black Lives Matter movement regarding white racist cops shooting both criminal and innocent black folks.

Until then, we'll have to suffice with the standard and not necessarily race related bad cop movies that seem to come out every few years. Of those, they usually fall into a few types of storylines, such as those where a previously believed to be good police officer turns out to be bad.

Others let viewers know right from the get-go that the cops are corrupt in one way or another. But most utilize the new to the force cop -- sometimes a rookie, and at others a transfer from elsewhere -- who ends up teamed with the bad cop.

"Triple 9" -- named after the 999 police code regarding a downed officer -- falls into the latter group. Following a bank heist involving a number of masked gunmen that literally and figuratively opens the film with a bang, we quickly learn that some of them are cops and the rest are apparently ex-military types (collectively played by Chiwetel Ejiofor, Anthony Mackie, Clifton Collins, Jr., Aaron Paul and Norman Reedus).

Their military style tactics aren't lost on a seasoned detective (Woody Harrelson) who's working the case. That is, when he's not partaking in his own or recently confiscated drugs, or telling his nephew (Casey Affleck) that the young cop isn't going to end up making a difference.

For reasons never fully explained, the cops and their crew are working for a Jewish Russian mob boss wife (Kate Winslet, playing mean and steely in an underwritten role) who's running the organization (that operates out of a kosher butcher shop) while her hubby is serving time behind bars. Complicating matters is that the crew's leader (Ejiofor) has fathered a child with that woman's sister (Gal Gadot), thus giving him some additional reasons to comply with the criminality.

The film certainly benefits from a terrific cast, and director John Hillcoat delivers some decently staged action sequences. But the script by Matt Cook leaves a lot to be desired. In addition to the above modus operandi omission, we never really know what makes any of the characters tick, who they are, why they do what they do, and why we should care.

In the end, I didn't, unlike what occurred in somewhat similarly themed films such as "Training Day." In that movie, I worried about the younger cop played by Ethan Hawke, while I was simultaneously mesmerized by the bravado of the older one embodied by Denzel Washington.

Here, the bad cops are, well, bad, but not in any sort of particularly interesting way, while Affleck's character is the default good guy, albeit one that's rough around the edges and already seasoned enough. Yet, despite him being the target of the late to be introduced titular plan (downing an officer to draw other cops to the scene and thus allow a crime to proceed with less potential police interference), I never really worried about him, and the overall story simply didn't draw me in.

Coupled with the lack of exposition or character explanation and some bad editing in and outside the action scenes, "Triple 9" wastes both its impressive cast and the viewer's time in watching things unfold in a less than fascinating or engaging fashion. It rates as a 4 out of 10.

Reviewed February 23, 2016 / Posted February 26, 2016

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