Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

19 September 2016

In Which a Crooked Cop Ponders Doing the "Right Thing"

I found John Hillcoat's Triple 9 basically unwatchable.

Or, well, I guess that isn't true. It isn't unwatchable. But what it is is Woody Harrelson doing a lot of yelling, Chiwetel Ejiofor doing a lot of yelling, Anthony Mackie, doing his best to make the movie into something interesting, Kate Winslet doing a Russian accent, and Casey Affleck having a lot of feelings.

It has a cool poster, but I was bored.

This is supposed to be an action/heist/crime kind of thing, and that's fine as far as it goes. Triple 9 has three big heist-shootout set-pieces and all of them are also fairly interesting, but these set pieces hang on a scaffolding that is simply without interest – Russian mafiosos with corpses in their trunks, crooked cops who are using their positions and expertise to pull off criminal activities, stupid ex-cops who seem to have no idea how to succeed at the criminal enterprises they've planned, and really dumb gangsters for hire who have no leverage with the people for whom they work but who think they have lots of power, mysterious codes held by the Department of Homeland Security. Who cares.

And another thing: Am I supposed to enjoy myself while I watch a bunch of crooked cops kill civilians while they use military and police training to get away with stealing shit that isn't theirs? And then am I supposed to feel better about all of this because a couple of good cops (who are actually also fairly crooked dudes themselves) bring these "rogue" cops to "justice" – especially when they don't put these bad cops or the police force they serve on trial but instead simply kill them? Triple 9 seems invested in convincing us not only that the good guys will win in the end, but also that justice is poetic, that the bad guys get what is coming to them, and that we can go on about our business without looking under the hood. Am I supposed to believe that lawlessly executing "bad guys" is somehow restoring law and order? And am I supposed to think that a coverup is really what we all need? No thanks.

Ms. Winslet and her heavies
I must have had some reason for watching this movie – maybe it was the cast? I do love Anthony Mackie, Clifton Collins, Michael K. Williams, Harrelson, Affleck, Winslet, and Ejiofor – but about 40 minutes in I had totally given up caring about any of these folks. I think that's the worst part about this movie: I disliked everyone in it. It's filled with reversal after reversal, but I was invested in none of these peripeties.

Will Casey Affleck and Woody Harrelson figure it out before it all ends? Will Putin let the Russian mafia boss out of the gulag after he gets the DHS codes? Or will everyone die in a giant pile-up of bodies like a Jacobean tragedy? I did actually watch it to the end, but I suspect I won't be able to remember anything about this asinine movie in a month or so. Avoid.