A gang of criminals and corrupt cops plan the murder of a police officer in order to pull off their biggest heist yet across town.
Directed by John Hillcoat
Starring Casey Affleck, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Norman Reedus, Kate Winslet, Woody Harrelson
If we could have taken Kate Winslet out of Triple 9 and had somehow written her into Grimsby, starring Sacha Baron Cohen, you probably wouldn’t have batted an eyelid. Two very different films, to be sure, but there is something about Winslet’s ludicrous eastern european accent (at least I think that was the plan) and character so devoid of threat and menace, that she really does come off comically unfortunate. John Hillcoat (yes, he of awesome projects like The Road and less awesome but still very enjoyable ones like Lawless and The Proposition) can turn his hand to most things, and here he has a stab at dirty cops. Not altogether original, of course, so this needed to be better than what has come before it. In actuality, the first half an hour of The Dark Knight can be heard at the back of the theatre, trying to stifle a giggle.
There were a couple of plus points which made the eyebrow raise on first appearances. Kate Winslet is never a bad idea to put into any film, as a rule, though this particular page in the book of movie-making might now require a cold, hard edit. Norman Reedus was my reason for showing up at all, so imagine my half-hearted tutting when he didn’t last much longer than the time it took for Chiwetel Ejiofor to get his weapon out. Ejiofor himself is still struggling to find his feet and just the right comfy chair to settle down in since 12 Years A Slave, but it’s probably safe to say that this isn’t the chaise longue he’s looking for.
Hillcoat is not known for making movies for stupid people, so paying attention is normally the order of the day, yet this is clearly the most accessible feature project of his to date and also, sadly, the least engaging. The cast have a remit of trying to make this hard-boiled. A sweaty, grimy underworld mystery of double-dealing and counter-cleverness. If anything, this tale goes to prove both theories of crime doesn’t pay and that there is no honour amongst thieves, whether they’re wearing a uniform or not. No, it doesn’t romanticise crime in the least, at any stage, so you wonder if these characters, even the most vicious and soulless, are doing it because they want to, or just because they have to. As such, we are short one or two real villains to either root for or against, depending upon your perspective. Most of the people featured are just default bad guys, and as such, fail to inspire too much enthusiasm.
What held decent potential, particularly featuring Casey Affleck, ended up being a little too yawn-inducing with exposition that was superfluous most of the time. Yes, we get it, just one more job, in order to get your child back from the nasty woman that is holding him captive. If it was that simple, you wouldn’t really enjoy the job quite as much as you appear to do and what’s more, it wouldn’t inspire much confidence in the crew of psychopaths you have been charged with to ensure the work gets done. Throw Aaron Paul in as a cracked up, tooled up ex-copper with the very real need for a good wash and you have, without doubt, a ragtag bunch of chaps you wouldn’t find at the top of your guest list for your Mum’s sixtieth birthday bash at your local Wetherspoons.
Overall, this is neither original nor inventive enough to call itself noteworthy. The script is predictable and the performances mostly half-hearted and unconvincing. The bad guys, of which there are many, don’t really ever get the chance to show how truly nasty they can be and even the good guys are lacking in the charm required for us to pay attention long enough to care about what happens to them. In all, a languid, drawn out affair that brings little to the genre that hasn’t been done better elsewhere. The one saving grace, as usual, is the redoubtable Woody Harrelson, who continues to play characters that clearly don’t give a shit, which could quite easily be the most honest performance here.