Crime dramas can make for some of the greatest movies; the best of them can deliver visceral thrills while also being able to make poignant commentary on the interrelated systems of organized crime and law enforcement which seem to yield a never-ending cycle of violence and misery. But like any other genre, between all the great entries are tons of other formulaic and run of the mill films that are hardly worth watching. This leads me to the trailer for John Hillcoat's Triple 9, starring Woody Harrelson and a bevy of talented actors. It remains to be seen on which end of the spectrum this particular crime film will fall, but thus far, this blood-red band trailer has me intrigued.
Though this trailer doesn’t really give any indication as to the film’s plot or main premise beyond “Ensemble Crime Film,” there’s nonetheless a lot going on here. This seems like a big bloody barrel of tried and true crime story tropes mulched together into a gritty gangster grog: you got idealistic rookies, cynical old timer detectives, bank heists, Stormtrooper SWAT dudes, ethically questionable police practices, vatos, car chases, freeway firefights in broad daylight, rich white lady with a gangster Moll perm, torture, bodies in trunks, ass, titties, ass & titties, and explosions galore! Those are certainly some potent ingredients in the pot, but there’s always potential for those parts to result in an unpalatable mess if there isn’t a cohesive narrative tying them all together.
If not the story, then the cast at least will get some attention and maybe get people into theaters. We start off with Woody Harrelson back in grizzled detective mode (which I don’t mind at all, it suits him nicely) opposite Casey Affleck as the presumed protagonist. Nothing in this Affleck’s career stands out to me as terrific, but I’ve never been mad at him showing up onscreen, so hopefully he works. Also included are Norman Reedus, my man Anthony Mackie AKA Black & Mild, the ubiquitous Clifton Collins Jr., Aaron Paul looking like he smoked some of his own Breaking Bad supply, Kate Winslet who might still be in her Divergent character mode, and Chiwetel Ejiofor looking like a stone-cold straight G. By the way, I know everyone loves Chiwetel as the kind and cuddly friendly neighborhood slave, but homeboy has been a bad motherfucker in quite a few roles (Redbelt, Serenity, Children Of Men), so it’s nice to see him keeping his edge-iofor honed (so not sorry).
One thing of note that I’m curious to see how far they’ll take is the possible link to South American cartels, presumably evidenced by that graphic shot of the severed human heads. Mexican cartel activity in particular has been a prominent element of more recent crime dramas, in everything from The Last Stand to End Of Watch, Sabotage, and this month’s latest feature Sicario (frontrunner for my pick of best movie this year…and this has been the year of Shaun The Muthafuckin Sheep so you know it must be good!). I also wonder how deep this movie will venture into the subject of police militarization, if at all. The alarmingly increasing prevalence of no-knock warrants on suspected drug offenders executed with the blunt force violence tantamount to counter-terrorism high value target raids is a reality that shouldn’t be ignored. As unfortunate as it is, I think it’s a subject that should be touched upon in works of fiction that are a part of the public consciousness with the same relevance as is given to common elements such as shady interrogation scenes or abuses of Miranda rights. Still, it’s hard to glean whether or not all the sound and fury in this trailer for Triple 9 will come to signify anything in the actual movie. Either way, I think there are enough interesting elements present here that I’ll be willing to check it out when it releases in February of next year.