Friday, March 4, 2016

"Triple 9" (2016)

Apparently, the only thing that makes a crime drama transcendent of television drivel and worthy of cinema is harsh language. Sort of like the way a teenager throws around cuss words in excessive and clumsy ways to show that they are “mature,” the cop film often has every person reduced to the most base of linguists. Well, that and a lack of redeeming characters.

“Triple 9” tries to let us know that it is a more sophisticated story than your average procedural by having every single character be totally irredeemable. All save one that is. And, not surprisingly, the good man amidst the universe of scum is the only one to make it out alive. Or, maybe that is surprising, as it reveals an almost old-fashioned morality.

There are three key characters in this film. (Even though the film is too diffuse and sprawling to effectively communicate that.)

First you have Chiwetel Ejiofor’s Michael Atwood. He is a man controlled by circumstances. He has convinced himself that he has to engage in evil to protect the little good he sees in life, embodied in his son. He appears to be in complete control, and yet he is a puppet. The story is moved along by his Russian-mobster masters pulling the strings they have attached to him. It is the picture of a fool convinced that he is the smartest person in his world.

Against him we have Casey Affleck’s Chris Allen. A cop who is simply trying to make a difference. He has no pretentions and no sense of power. And yet he is a competent man simply trying to do good. He wants to make the world a better place. All the other characters in the film would see that as foolishness, and yet the story reveals him to be the only man who truly understands the way the world works.

His uncle, Woody Harrelson’s Jeffrey Allen, is a masterful detective. And yet his approach to the job of law enforcement laughs at Chris’s idealism. In his words, their job is to “out monster the monster.” He is the most tragic figure in the film because his aim is to stop evil men, but he has become just as evil in the process.

All of that insight is—as already stated—hidden beneath a lot of messy movie-making. It is by no means enough to recommend anyone check this film out for edification. And despite some amazingly intense action set-pieces, it is hard to imagine that many would find this dark film entertaining.

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