Killing Them Softly Reviews
What follows are a lot of drawn out discussions that fail to progress the story or develop the characters in an engaging manner. The shots are uninspired, creating no tone. atmosphere, or any sense of a city collapsing under the weight of the 2008 Financial Crisis. Gangster life is as much a corporate business entity as Walmart. Movies like The Godfather and Scarface as well as TV shows like The Sopranos or Boardwalk Empire have focused on the relationship between gangsters and the economy, and they are far more insightful or intriguing than Killing Them Softly could ever hope to be.
Frankie (Scoot McNairy) and Russell (Ben Mendelsohn) are a couple of smalltime crooks for hire. They get a job to hold up a high-stakes, mafia run, card game that's overseen by middle-man Markie Trattman (Ray Liotta). As Markie has openly admitted to holding up a game in the past, he becomes the obvious suspect but something doesn't quite add up. To clear up the mess, outside enforcer Jackie Cogan (Brad Pitt) is brought in the get to the bottom of it.
Films that fall into the crime genre will always have a certain level of expectation about them. It must be difficult for a director to try and establish a new format when there is a demand that they follow a particular formula. This adaptation of the George V. Higgins novel "Cogan's Trade" is exactly the type of film that has been criticised for it's lack of urgency and has suffered in it's comparison with previous genre classics. Personally, I admire Dominik's attempt at crafting something different here, and despite a glacial pace, I still found it gripping. This is a film that focuses less on action and more on talking and it's entirely understandable why some didn't appreciate it, but for me, the talking was the action and that's thanks to solid performances from everyone involved. Every actor is as good as the other and it's through their strong, and lengthy, exchanges of dialogue that each of them are able to shine; McNairy and Mendelsohn carry the weight of the first part of the story with two very different but equally unlikable low-life's; Liotta plays a perfect, desperate middle-man; Jenkins epitomises the business side of things and Gandolfini is a perfect display of regret and melancholia from a hit-man who's lost his touch. Ultimately, though, it's the reserved central performance from Pitt who commands. Arguably, he's got less to work with but his subtlety is key in expressing the coldness and stark reality of the business that these people operate in.
Of course - as is now expected of Dominik - he doesn't just deliver a formulaic gangster story. Instead, he infuses it with allegory and makes a social commentary on the financial state of America. Throughout the film there are, ironic, radio and television broadcasts of political speeches and discussions about the economy and reminders of how America is the land of opportunity. It's a, less than subtle, device but one that worked quite well. On slightly closer inspection, the criminals that roam this underbelly of modern America are no less disingenuous or manipulative than the politicians in office. They just happen to be conducting their business on a lesser scale. At one point Pitt's Jackie Cogan even describes his cohorts as "Corporate mentality gangsters". That aside, this is still a crime film and as a result, it's not adverse to rolling up it's sleeves and getting it's hands dirty. There may be only sporadic moments of action but when they do appear they are brutally delivered and some of the violence displayed on-screen is wince inducing.
Much like the aforementioned western collaboration between Dominik and Pitt this film dares to incorporate a sociopolitical commentary throughout it's genre. It's unconventional but very effective nonetheless and the last line of the film sums up it's theme perfectly... "America is not a country, it's just a business. Now fucking pay me."
Good movie! A fulfilling elegant and stylish black comedy. The script, acting, direction were all superbly done, and should be commended. Although the film can be very pessimistic, it does have a message, one that should resonate in the near future. The whole cast was extremely effective and highly believable. However Brad Pitt is simply terrific, and deserves much acclaim that could come to him. Just like The Assassination of Jesse James, Pitt plays subtle, but yet powerful sociopath and it ripples the film throughout. James Gandolfini Gandolfini is excellent as a boozy, broken old assassin. Ray Liotta offers a grotesque reprise of the type of manic gangster he played in his younger years in Goodfellas. Richard Jenkins is solemn as ever as the killer's contact, relaying back messages from the Mob and trying to beat Cogan down on prices. All the men here are relentlessly sexist and foul-mouthed. This movie was done in a style that was quite unique from your standard issue shoot 'em up or Scorsese gangster movie in a number of ways I found refreshing. It slowed down the pace of dialogue scenes to a relatable and believable level, made the violence far more realistic, and didn't overdo the music. Those who can't handle too much, or too realistic of violence won't like this movie. Some might feel the dialogue makes the movie drag just a bit, but if you like realistic filmmaking, they've made it feel as if you're sitting in on actual conversations. Don't be deterred by the negative reviews, but don't go in expecting the recycling of Scorsese and Copella. This a picture of its own kind, of its own vision. Let it move you.
Three amateurs stickup a Mob protected card game, causing the local criminal economy to collapse. Brad Pitt plays the hitman hired to track them down and restore order. Killing Them Softly also features Richard Jenkins , James Gandolfini, Ray Liotta, Scoot McNairy, Ben Mendelsohn, and Vincent Curatola. Max Casella, Trevor Long, Slaine and Sam Shepard also make appearances.