Georgia on my Mind – ★★★½
Director John Hillcoat follows up Lawless and The Road with an Atlanta, Georgia crime drama with corrupt cops, recovering junkies, bank heists and a kosher Russian-Israeli mafia at its centre.
Making up an ensemble cast are Casey Affleck, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Anthony Mackie, Aaron Paul, Norman Reedus, Clifton Collins, Jr, Woody Harrelson and Kate Winslet. Ejiofor, Mackie, Paul and Reedus play a motley crew of corrupt cops and gangsters who have to do one final heist job in order to settle some scores and get their big payday. They figure the only way to divert the police for long enough is to set up a “triple 9” – also known as “officer down”.
The cop unlucky enough to be targeted for the setup in the 999 is Casey Affleck’s newbie “Allen”, but the gang don’t bank on him being sharp enough to start working out the whole web of crooked lies for himself. Throw in a custody battle between Ejiofor and the mafia (he has a daughter with the mob boss’ sister) and you get a pretty complex narrative that is probably a little overly ambitious and becomes increasingly muddled as the film goes on and the crew slowly get picked off one-by-one.
Away from Matt Cook’s script, tonally the film is more successful with an attempt at the tension of Sicario, the localised intricacies of “The Wire” and the macho-violence of Lawless really bringing you in to the world that Hillcoat is trying to build. The cinematographer Nicolas Karakatsanis also shot The Drop and Bullhead and his visuals, when coupled with the Atticus Ross-led score, leave some great set-pieces etched in the memory – particularly the first bank heist and the resulting motorway chase which featured the arresting image of smoke from identifying red smoke grenades stored in the bank’s cash bags billowing out the doors and windows of the getaway van.
The other thing to note is that everyone is having a whole lot of fun making this film. Harrrelson is pretty much playing a first cousin to the role of Detective Martin Hart from “True Detective” season 1, and it’s the kind of role you love seeing him play with the penchant for drink and drugs sure to bring plenty of wry smiles to audiences. Kate Winslet also gets to refine the Polish-Armenian accent she had in Steve Jobs, and here is allowed to tweak it with some wonderfully styled Russian mobster wife hair. She’s clearly having a lot of fun with the role and you wouldn’t begrudge her a minute of scenery-chewing considering the meatier work she usually takes on.
In short, put the scripting and structure issues aside and you’re left with a very serviceable crime drama that manages to tick a whole lot of other boxes.
Released in Irish cinemas on February 19th 2016