Triple 9

            “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”  (Matthew 6:13)

            Temptation, of course, takes many forms, but for this tight-knit group of Atlanta cops, the temptation to take the easy money was just too great.  All they would have to do is provide some insider information from within the police force about possible investigations regarding Mob activity, particularly the Russian variety.  Maybe provide a little misdirection; perhaps instigate a small amount of bureaucratic inefficiency.  That should be easy in a huge bureaucracy anyway, right? 

            Ah, but once they started taking the easy money, gradually, the demands got harder.  And there was no negotiating; there was no backing out; no changing your mind about your involvement.  You were all in, like it or not.

            And so Michael Atwood (Chiwetel Ejiofor) finds himself doing things he didn’t join the force for:  illegal things, like failing to prosecute certain crimes by looking the other way.  That’s guilt-inducing in itself.  But then the demand comes to actively plan and participate in the armed robbery of a bank.  It seems there’s a certain “safety deposit” box in the vault of a certain bank, the contents of which must be retrieved.  And so the cops plan the heist, utilizing law enforcement technology to monitor when the response from the station comes, and pilfering unmarked guns from the evidence storage room in order to not leave a trail of evidence.  And it would have worked, too, except somebody got greedy, and grabbed a cash bag, which contained a tell-tale red-dye cherry bomb, and things just go downhill from there.

            Kate Winslet takes a delicious turn as a cold, ruthless Russian mob boss.  Woody Harrelson is the dissolute detective who can hardly function any more, but still has unerring instinct.  Casey Affleck plays the rookie cop unfortunate enough to find himself plunged into the snake pit.  The worst part is how the dirty cops plan a big heist with the distraction being a “triple 9,” that is, a policeman shot in the line of duty. 

            It’s gritty, it’s violent, it’s cynical, it’s chaotic, it’s confusing, and it’s hard to watch.  But at least at the end, there’s one good guy left standing, which is all we ever asked of the old shoot-‘em-up Westerns at the OK Corral.

Questions For Discussion:

1)                   When have you been tempted to “cut a corner,” ethically?  What were the consequences?

2)                  If you know of someone who’s “gone to the Dark Side,” is it your responsibility to turn them in?  Or do you confront them personally?

3)                  How pervasive is corruption in law enforcement in our country?  In your community?

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association