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Director: Kathryn Bigelow Starring: John Boyega, Will Poulter, Algee Smith, Jacob Latimore, Anthony Mackie, Jack Reynor Running Time: 143 minutes

Though the clothes and the music and the specific events make Detroit‘s setting of 1967 clear, it’s shot in a haphazard, shaky manner that suggests that this could be happening right now. The point is pretty clear of course, as the events recreated here, racial inequality, police brutality, an unjust legal system, are still happening right now. Bigelow’s film could just as easily be called Ferguson and while that does make its messages abundantly clear and easy to agree with, it may also be the biggest drawback. Here Bigelow and screenwriting collaborator Mark Boal roll up their sleeves and deliver their cinematic treatise on racism in the United States. There’s anger here to be sure, but it’s an scattergun anger, displeasure at a distance and what that results in is a film that’s unrelenting but unfocused. Are these Bigelow and Boal’s sleeves to roll up?

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Director: John Hillcoat Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofer, Casey Affleck, Anthony Mackie, Aaron Paul, Clifton Collins Jr., Norman Reedus, Woody Harrelson, Kate Winslet Running Time: 115 minutes

Here’s an exercise: take 20 cop/crime films that have come out since Heat. Out of each of those, pick one scene at random, and edit them together in whatever order you like. Congratulations, you have now created Triple 9, a film by John Hillcoat about crooked cops, rookie cops, one last job, not knowing who you can trust and so on and so on and so on and bleeurrgh. Triple 9 is so determined not to show you anything that you haven’t seen before that it’s closest cinematic equivalent is a CCTV camera with a photograph taped over the lens, which may actually be one of the only older-than-dirt crime thriller cliches that isn’t found in the film itself.

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