"999" is law enforcement code for "Officer Down." I learned that about halfway through this darkly intense heist film. I enjoy a good heist film every now and then; but this one is TOO intense and TOO dark. Most of the characters need a bath; their hair is greasy and filthy. The intense moments are spent in equally filthy hallways of public housing tenements where we expect gunmen to open fire at any moment.
Director John Hillcoat ("Lawless") working with scriptwriter Matt Cook ("By Way of Helena") brings us a terrific cast and a plot where the Russian mob is blackmailing a crew of criminals and dirty cops into an impossible heist. The cops know their best hope for success is to kill a rookie and with the "999" code, divert the city police to the scene of that crime. Then they will pull their heist while there are no other police available to call.
Here is part of the cast:
- * Anthony Mackie ("The Avengers") Marcus Belmont always looks the part. He's well-groomed, neat, and understands the people on the street. He is a highly respected police officer who has the task of breaking in the rookie.
- * Casey Affleck ("The Finest Hours") Rookie Chris Allen never thought it would be this challenging to "make a difference."
- * Woody Harrelson ("Hunger Games") Sergeant Detective Jeffrey Allen may have substance abuse problems, but he has the instinct and the "nose" of a cop. He is a mentor for our rookie.
- * Michael Kenneth Williams ("Boardwalk Empire") Sweet Pea knows exactly what is going down. It's just a bit of a challenge to get him to share....
- * Chiwetel Ejiofor ("Secret in Their Eyes") Michael Atwood is the brains of the gang, inventive, skilled with explosives and human behavior; also, he will do anything to protect his little boy.
- * Aaron Paul ("Breaking Bad") Gabe Welch is the loose cannon; I hated to see him come on screen.
- * Clifton Collins Jr. ("Westworld") Jorge Rodriguez shows us what a really bad guy looks like!
- * Kate Winslet ("Steve Jobs") is amazing! She completely disappears into the character of Irina Vlaslov, who will stop at nothing to get her Russian mobster husband out of jail. I knew Winslet was part of the cast, but had to keep studying Irina's face to be sure. Winslet's demeanor, her makeup, her accent, her clothes, everything about her was so unlike anything I've ever seen her do before.
This R-rated thriller became so involving the jaded screening audience actually cheered one of the (many) explosions. We let numerous F-bombs roll off our backs and sat through endless double crosses, gun fights, beheadings and yelling matches, but ultimately discovered we actually had someone to root for. Yikes!