Review: Triple 9

“The monster has gone digital,” warns Woody Harrelson in a fashion that only Mr. Harrelson can. As bedraggled detective cleaning up the mess of a bank manager whose vault was just not only breached in a daylight heist, but documents of his families whereabouts are left behind by the thieves as a threat. Triple 9 is a gritty fusion of the dirty cop drama, and the ‘one last job’ thriller. Mostly it feels like the last hurrah of the ensemble heist film. With GPS, closed circuit cameras, and other omnipresent technologies, pulling off a smash-and-grab bank job seems as foolish as grabbing a few strapped stacks on impulse on the way out the door only to find them loaded with dye packs.

John Hillcoat, the hard-boiled Australian behind gritty outback western The Proposition, apocalyptic father-son survival tale The Road, and family bootlegger drama, Lawless, is determined to make his audience wallow in the complex cesspool of crime and law-enforcement of inner city Atlanta. The gangs are bad, at one point a trio of severed heads sit idly on the hood of a classic automobile, but the militarized police force is worse. Hillcoat has always been interested in the messy outcomes of complex (and not so complex) masculinity, and he has a fine ensemble of bold character actors, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Anthony Mackie, Aaron Paul, Clifton Collins Jr. and Norman Reedus, a squad consisting of active and ex-police and marines who are in deep with, of all things, an orthodox Jewish faction of Russian mafia.

Sporting Star-of-David bling and exceptionally big hair, Kate Winslet’s thickly accented Irina Vlaslov is tougher than any of these compromised men as she tightens the screws on in a way that is reminiscent of Kristin Scott-Thompson’s angry-icicle matron in Only God Forgives. She has leverage on these men in a manner too convoluted to get into here, but suffice it to say that the strength of Triple 9 is that of a pot-boiler par excellence. As the plot vacillates between criminal brotherhood and domestic drama, neither in great detail, there is nevertheless an undertow towards finding out what is going to happen next.

As Harrelson’s pot-smoking, half-drunk super-cop offers advice and sniffs the air for the schemes of dirty cops, Ejoifor tries to get his Ex (a wasted Gal Gadot) to share custody of their son, and Paul continues to break bad, it is Casey Affleck who quietly steals the film as a rookie cop that is somehow both naive and world-weary (welcome to the 21st century folks.) In a different film, Affleck would be front and centre, here he blends into the background until he does not, his performance is a coup of sorts, a combination of acting talent, and directional choices.

There are some who might suggest that this would all work better in the ubiquitous long-form TV format, but I disagree. Sometimes there is a case to be made for a smaller dose of something. Triple 9’s familiar, yet akimbo, clusterfuck of organizations and individuals (with a dash of geopolitics?) has just enough visual panache – a grimy 35mm aesthetic with occasional splotches of bright pink – combined with its ensemble of abundance to pass muster as termite art. It is the kind of adult entertainment, along with the far more thoroughbred Sicario and far, far more abstruse The Counselor, that has been on the endangered species list from movie studios for some time. It is well worth spotting these rare beasts in the wild before they are gone.

Trailer #2 for John Hillcoat’s Triple 9

Here is faster paced, more plot and character heavy UK trailer for the increasingly awesome looking new John Hillcoat picture, Triple 9. A collection of corrupt cops attempt a massive heist, and to distract the rest of the cities branches of law enforcement, they plan to murder one of their fellow officers to create a ‘999’ call which would have most of the police in the city converge in a location as far away the robbery as possible. Featuring the very well stocked cast of Woody Harrelson, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Norman Reedus, Casey Affleck, Aaron Paul, Anthony Mackey, Gal Gadot, Clifton Collins Jr., and Kate Winslet.

Triple 9 hits US theatres in February 2016, and apparently the European market will get a chance to see it as well, albeit no release date is indicated in the trailer.

Trailer: Triple 9

This little slice of nastiness from John Hillcoat (The Proposition, The Road), a director who knows his way around balancing bleak and heart, looks to be pushing the envelope of Sicario and Training Day as far as it can go.

Triple 9 has elements of the militarization of police, the war of attrition with crime and violence (severed heads abound), and everyone thrown into the blender. Props to whoever came up with the kids ‘this little piggie’ to score this trailer, because it is damn effective with the imagery on display.

The cast is beyond stacked: Woody Harrelson, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Norman Reedus, Casey Affleck, Aaron Paul, Anthony Mackey, Gal Gadot, Clifton Collins Jr., and somewhere in there is Kate Winslet. All stuck in John Hillcoat’s murky grime. I cannot wait to wade into this urban warzone in February 2016.

TIFF Review: Felony

FELONY

In the course of a day, detective Malcolm Toohey goes from participating in a major sting operation that gets him shot, to celebrating and singing Bon Jovi with his officers in the cop bar, to hitting a child with his vehicle while driving under the influence. A good man at heart, he suffers from extremely poor judgement in that moment of trial and choses to hide behind his badge. Weather it is fear of losing his professional shine, or simply the shame of his folly, he tells a big lie that will ripple through out his family life, professional life and of the lives of the boys family. It will also have the audience consider some tricky moral and ethical situations over the course of about three days of Toohey’s guilt compressed into 100 minutes of solid drama, along the similar lines of Mystic River or Copland.

Felony was written by and stars Joel Edgerton, and it was made in the genre hotbed of Australian that produced other sticky crime dramas The Square and Animal Kingdom. There is particularly powerful performance from consummate professional Tom Wilkinson playing seasoned detective Carl Summer, who delivers the big ‘circle the wagons’ movie-speech at the heart of the films headspace: Why should cops or ‘good’ people don’t need the courts or prisons, because their own guilt is punishment enough for their ‘accidental’ crimes? After detective Summer helps cover for Towhee’s misdeeds, he does not take kindly to Toohey’s conscience flaring up, as the little boy’s head wound gets worse. Aggressively pushing the ‘don’t hurt the police brand‘ Summer has also to deal with his Ed Exely type new partner Jai “Son of Diehard” Courtney who plays the crisp, by the book detective Jim Melic. The young and idealized Melic becomes suspicious of the whole situation immediately based on observations on how Toohey’s response in the 911 call placed, and the jittery body language when he is talks with Summer. It doesn’t help things that Melic has taken a bit of a fancy to the boy’s young mother.

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Fantasia 2013 Review: Shield of Straw

About 30 minutes into Takashi Miike’s Shield of Straw, I started to wonder if the director of such a long list of filmic insanities had finally succumbed to making polished Hollywood blockbusters.  We have all seen the prolific filmmaker work in so many genres and styles in the last 15 years, but making something resembling a posh Tony Scott (or more recently, Nimrod Antal) film was certainly a first for me. Yes, the man has been putting a bit more polish into his filmmaking recently and getting away from his shoot-it-on-instinct and has slowed him down from directing an average of 6 films per year to merely an average of 2. Recent films such 13 AssassinsHara-Kiri 3D, and heck, even zanier fare such as Zebraman 2 have been approaching a studio production aesthetic for some time, and here he is playing in the sandbox of the Hollywood police actioner. Even seeing the WB shield come out during the screening was a surprise. If the film does not make it to a Theatre Near You due to its subtitles, then one might cynically wonder if the studio bought the rights simply to remake an english language version for such a concept that is hard to pass up. That is if Hollywood is in the business of making these types of $50M thrillers anymore.

The story sees a two ambitious police officers charged with protecting a captured serial killer awaiting trial. A young child is sexually assaulted which, thankfully, Miike leaves this off screen, something he may not have done in his more gonzo days of being Japan’s l’enfant terrible. Slaughtered and left a drainage pipe, this opening is cut to a frail old man holding two umbrellas in the rain, one for him, and one for his granddaughter. The man is a rich financial investor slowly dying of some disease or another, and with all of his accumulated cash, billions of Yen, he offers payola for anyone able to kill the killer in custody or on the lam. He will pay a lesser, but still hefty sum if someone just attempts to do so, even if they does not succeed, making a pay out more tantalizing to either the average joe down on his luck or someone in a position of authority. While the movie can be boiled down to such a shamelessly high concept of a couple of honourable cops protecting a monster against all of society in league against it, the execution juggling around of pacing, set-piece moments, and social commentary on the financial strain of a countries citizenry in the 21st century. Not to mention, the rot of its institutions and entangled definition of justice in the modern world. All of this makes Shield of Straw work in a pretty fascinating way after you settle in to its particular modulations.

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Friday One Sheet: Blood in the Water

While I like the typographical simplicity of Lars Von Trier’s Nymphomaniac teaser poster, this weeks highlighted poster goes to the Sam Mendes produced triller, Blood. Desaturated color and a bright red, very clean, typographic integration to the design, a healthy respect for the rule of thirds, a late 1970s model car on the horizon and a corpse buried beneath the mud — Can you say gritty paranoid thriller? The chilly open space (which takes full advantage of the UK Quad format) is also reminiscent of the ending of the Mike Hodges/Michael Caine Get Carter, which is a good thing to allude to in your marketing materials if you are going for bleak Britain-set drama. I know it is keeping with the time period to use those little picture boxes featuring the top billed cast, but that really is my only complaint with the otherwise clear design. Judging from the poster design and the synopsis (below) I expect this to be in the vein of the handsome and engaging Red Riding Trilogy from a few years ago.

Thriller charting the moral collapse of a police family. Two cop brothers, smothered by the shadow of their former police chief father, must investigate a crime they themselves have committed.

Directed by Nick Murphy and featuring a great character-actor cast including Paul Bettaney, Brian Cox and Mark Strong, Blood had a brief run on the festival circuit in the UK and is making its to wider release at the end of the May.

Top 10 Corrupt Movie Cops

Apparently our friends over in the criminal justice department are also big movie dorks as well. And what kind of movie would they like the best? The kind with corrupt officials of course! So I stumbled upon this list the other day about movie cops gone bad. Seems like an easy topic to list off, but there were several on here I almost forgot about. There are probably hundreds more, but here are ten good ones. Beware that there may be some *SPOILERS* in the text that follows. And I need to rewatch L.A. Confidential someday soon.

 
 

10. Dudley Smith, L.A. Confidential
You may want to think of James Cromwell as the sweet farmer who gave a pig a chance in Babe, but he shows another side of himself in L.A. Confidential. He basically controls the organized crime in L.A., blackmails city officials to get his way, and murders (or has someone else murder) everyone that gets in the way of his quest for drugs and power. It’s hard to even keep track of all the people he kills during the movie and before it even starts. This may have just been the unedited Babe sequel, Babe: Pig in the City.

 


 

9. Norman Stansfield, Leon the Professional
If you haven’t seen this film, you should if only to see a bad-ass 12-year-old Natalie Portman. She plays Mathilda, a girl whose whole family has been murdered by corrupt DEA agents headed up by Norman “Stan” Stansfield. Mathilda’s father had been keeping cocaine for the agents, but they found out he’d been keeping some for himself, and Stansfield, who’s addicted to drugs himself, decided to take out the whole family. Mathilda was out shopping when the murders happened, so now Stansfield wants to find her and kill her. She’s not totally helpless since she finds a father figure in the hitman down the hall, but it’s still not very nice of this officer to be trying to gun down a little girl.

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TIFF Review: Sleepless Night

 

During an early morning drug robbery, the culprits make off with a dozens of kilograms of cocaine, but one unlucky fellow, Vincent, gets tagged with a stab wound, and even worse, has his face spotted by the dealers he is stealing from. But wait a minute. Vincent and his partner are cops who have plotted a rogue, and quite illegal heist for some much needed cash. Vincent, all ready at odds with ex-wife gets in trouble when the owner of the drugs, Jose – a snappily dressed middle-man who operates out of a Paris night club the size of a small airport – kidnaps his son Thomas in exchange for Vincent returning the drugs. During a packed night, the hand-off at the club gets royally messed up as two more branches of the police, Vincent’s partner, the Turks who are trying to buy the drugs from Jose and at probably a couple of other interested parties join the chase as Vincent’s changes of getting his son back dwindle and his changes of getting beaten, shot, stabbed, busted, or simply bleeding death on the floor increase – exponentially. As far as I can tell, the entire film takes place within 24 hours, but the pacing is so relentless, that at times, it feels like a single whirlwind take.

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Bad Lieutenant Gets Release Date

Bad Lieutenant 2 Movie Still

Yes, it’s true. Folks who don’t have a chance to see one of Werner Herzog’s new film’s Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, at TIFF will have a chance to take a hit off the lucky crack pipe soon after.

Big Picture is reporting that the batshit crazy, Herzog/Nicolas Cage team up will be distributed in the US by First Look Studios with an opening date of November 20th. Mark the calendar!

Now for the big question: what are the chances this will be a relatively wide release? I want to see this!

And if you, for whatever reason, missed the trailer, you need to do yourself a favour and see it now. I’ve tucked it under the seat.

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Lynch’s Surveillance Trailer

Surveillance Movie StillHard to believe but it’s been an entire year since I first posted a trailer for Jennifer Lynch’s long awaited sophomore release. It may not be long awaited since her first film was either ignored or disliked by the few who saw it, but here we are, 16 years after her debut with a thriller titled Surveillance.

The film stars Bill Pullman as an FBI agent who tracks a serial killer with the help of three victims, including a child, who escaped from the killer’s grasp. Along for the ride are Julia Ormond who appears to play a psychologist and the always awesome Michael Ironside in a small role as a police captain.

From memory (since that original trailer has now disappeared), this looks similar to the first but I don’t recall the surveillance images which seem to be added material. I also get a feeling of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre with the apparent involvement of the cops (in the trailer at least) and the strange mask work by the killer. The resulting trailer is disturbing and a little scary (not to mention kids in these types of movies are generally creepy).

Surveillance has played a number of festivals and has opened throughout most of Europe complete with DVD releases in some regions, but it’s not scheduled to open on this side of the water, and in limited release no less, until June 26th.

Thanks to our friends at Twitch, check out the trailer below.

PlayPlay

Brewer’s Mother Trucker Gets the Go-Ahead

Craig BrewerFor some reason, I seem to recall an announcement for a movie called Mother Trucker but perhaps I’m mistaken because I’d definitely remember the news that Craig Brewer was involved with the project.

The director of Hustle & Flow and Black Snake Moan has sold his new project, which he is writing and directing, about a guy who escapes from jail, steals a big rig and drives it across the South in an attempt to see his dying mother, all the while being chased by the cops. The project is being pegged as “an update of Smokey and the Bandit”, a movie I really like, and though I’m sure Brewer will deliver, this doesn’t sound like that much fun. Considering the number of films about road trips and chases, you’d think that coming up with new gags would be difficult but I’m willing to give it a chance, if only because of Brewer.

Sounds like this is still in the early stages but we should be seeing casting announcements in the new few months. Wonder who they’ll get to play the driver?