NEW YORK — The seven deadly sins are on full display in “Triple 9” (Open Road), an extremely violent thriller about dirty cops and Russian mobsters on the mean streets of Atlanta.
This multilayered drama, directed by John Hillcoat, is a twisted tale of extortion, revenge and (ultimately) justice. The eventual wrap-up may be morally acceptable, but along the path to it a whole lot of bullets are spent and buckets of blood are shed — all to an ear-splitting soundtrack. The squeamish and those averse to grit will do well to choose another movie.
As loyalties shift and double-crosses are revealed, moreover, the story by Matt Cook can be hard to follow. Adding to the potential confusion are popular actors playing against type.
Kate Winslet chews up the scenery as Irina Vlaslov, a Russian-Israeli mafia moll described as “a really glamorous, nasty piece of work.” She looks the part with big hair, heavy makeup, and red go-go boots.
Irina is also the mastermind of a bank robbery that she hopes will (somehow) spring her jailed lover back in Moscow. She blackmails a group of corrupt cops and petty criminals into carrying out the heist.
Among the turncoat men in blue are Michael Atwood (Chiwetel Ejiofor of “12 Years a Slave”) and Marcus Belmont (Anthony Mackie, one of the “Avengers”).
At the center of this moral mess is Chris Allen (Casey Affleck), a rookie cop who genuinely feels called to serve and protect. “I’m trying to make a difference,” he says.
Chris is teamed with Marcus. But as the film unfolds, he begins to have his doubts about his partner’s integrity.
In the meantime, Chris’ uncle, Sgt. Det. Jeffrey Allen (Woody Harrelson), is on the Russian mob case, digging deep into a suspected link with the police force.
“Out here, there is no good, and there is no bad,” he warns his nephew. “You’ve got to out-monster the monster. Your job is to get home at the end of the night.”
Running out of patience, Irina and her goons apply pressure on their minions, forcing them to hatch a plan to distract their colleagues. In the ultimate betrayal, they will trigger the alert of the title — police code for an officer down. Their choice of target brings on the plot’s clever but gory crisis.
The film contains pervasive bloody violence, including gunplay and torture, drug use, full female and rear male nudity and frequent crude and profane language. The Catholic News Service classification is L — limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.