(John Hillcoat, 2016)
A Cops and Robbers movie!
Hillcoat gathers a really impressive cast here, and embeds them in a world thick with macho atmosphere and sticky Atlanta, Georgia authenticity. Matt Cook's screenplay was on the Black List a few years ago, and it's easy to see why: it's full of great pulp characters and moments, and ripe for muscular action treatment. Hillcoat delivers in that department, opening the film with a heist carried out by Michael Belmont (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Russell Welch (Norman Reedus), two ex-military contractors now working for hire for the Russian Mob in the sinister form of Kate Winslet's cold gang boss. Russell and Michael enlist Russell's junkie ex-cop brother (Aaron Paul in another loser role) and he in turn calls in dirty cops Marcus (Anthony Mackie) and Rodriguez (Clifton Collins Jr) for the heist on a downtown bank, focused on recovering a single safety deposit box. The heist goes wrong and attracts the attention of burned out detective Allen (Woody Harrelson). Meanwhile, the gang have to perform another job, and the decision is made to kill a cop as a massive distraction - the police band code for this is a 999 - and the chosen victim is Chris (Casey Affleck), an Iraq-war veteran and nephew of Allen, recently transferred from a cushy suburb to the gangs unit, where he and Marcus make for uneasy partners.
Along the way, Hillcoat throws in an extended police raid on a projects gang den, the second heist and a handful of tense confrontations in great urban neo-noir locations. He plays with colour and composition. Lost of reds, lots of reflections, visually portraying the bloodiness and duplicity of this world.
The whole thing is more or less ludicrously macho, all shape charges and assault rifles, but the characters are surprisingly rich and convincing for a world as pulpy as the one, and the excellent cast (Ejiofor, Affleck and Winslet in particular) make it extremely compelling.
It's grim - but then isn't every Hillcoat film - but always entertaining.