Starring: Casey Affleck, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Anthony Mackie, Aaron Paul, Clifton Collins, Jr. Woody Harrelson and kate Winslet.
Written by Matt Cook, directed by John Hillcoat. Budget $20 million, running time 115 minutes long.
A gang of professional bank robbers stage a daring daylight robbery and get away with a security deposit box and a bag's worth of notes all bundled up with dye bombs, which leave the crimbos literally red in the face when they go off, but that's the least of their worries! You see the gang did the bank job for a horrifically vicious Jewish Russian crime family lead by Kate Winslet and rather than pay the gang the money for the job, Kate has a member of the gang killed as an incentive to the rest to do 'just one last job' – this time a raid on a Homeland Security facility to retrieve a file that will get Kate's husband out of prison. To further complicate matters, the gang has two crooked cops among its number and one of those cops has a new partner in the guise of Casey Affleck, whose uncle, Woody Harrelson is investigating the bank job! What are the odds?
Anyway, the gang realise that the only way to pull off the new heist is to kill a cop thus triggering a 'Triple Nine', which will send all the cops in the city heading in the wrong direction to investigate thus giving them a clear shot at robbing the facility. Confused? You won't be as this film explains everything, slowly plodding along from one grim plot point to the next.
This film has three very well shot and exciting action sequences, one in each of its aching formulaic three act structure. The opening bank job, which is without doubt very exciting, the mid-way gun battle in a housing project and the final assault on the Homeland facility. In between those we're treated to one relentlessly bleak scene after the other as characters meet to pout and moan and occasionally beat each other up. None of these characters is remotely likeable, and the only character we can barely root for is Casey Affleck's cop, just arrived in the division and teamed up with Anthony Mackie who, would you believe it, doesn't rate his new partner at all, that is until he proves himself in the heat of an incredible gun battle.
But don't go expecting a film anywhere as good as Michael Mann's far superior movie, 'Heat' because you'll be sorely disappointed. There's really nothing to recommend this nasty, bitter-tasting trawl through the underbelly of Atlanta, Georgia's underworld, just one brutal scene of ugly people being unbelievably beastly to other ugly people. Which is a shame because this is a cast to die for, a cast of terrific actors and actresses who are let down by a brooding, grim script that portrays them as nothing more stereotypes.
Indeed, as soon the film introduces its characters it's time for the plot and a game of Crime Movie Bingo where you can tick off all the tropes and plot points before they happen. For example, see how long it takes you to identify who the gang choose to be their Triple 9 victim and then see if you can guess how it's all going to play out.
This film sort of bumbles along through to the final act where logic finally runs out and plot points or coincidences start happening which leave you scratching your head is mild irritation.
All that said, it's not wholly awful, but by that reckoning it really doesn't have a lot to recommend it either. I'd suggest staying home and watching the vastly superior and pre-mentioned Heat, which at least has the bonus of having both DeNiro (in his last real role), Al Pacino, and Val Kilmer in its cast and one of the most incredibly crafted gun battles ever portrayed in the movies.