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Killing Them Softly [Blu-ray]
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Brad Pitt stars in this darkly comic thriller based on a 1974 George V. Higgins crime novel. Jackie Cogan (Pitt) is a professional 'point man' - that is, the investigator who prepares the way for a hitman - who is assigned to track down a pair of junkies who have ripped off a mob-protected poker game. The star-studded supporting cast includes Ray Liotta, James Gandolfini, Scoot McNairy and Sam Shepard.
Based on Killing Them Softly's somewhat misleading promotional campaign, expectant audiences may have thought they were in for an action-driven crime thriller. There's plenty of grit, street life, gangland lingo, and nuts-and-bolts criminal insiderism, but the overall tone is more akin to a David Mamet play than a rollicking Hollywood shoot-'em-up.
The movie is an adaptation of the fine George V. Higgins novel Cogan's Trade, and it nicely transposes the tone and delivery of Higgins's spare prose into a visual style that keeps a long, lingering gaze on its unlovable bad guys. It also holds an attentive ear to the rhythm and pattern of their speech, turning the extended stretches of dialogue into unique tableaux of stylish exchanges between hit men, lowlife punks, and middle management gangsters. These scenes of hushed talk are infused with deeper meaning, not to mention lots of wit, and they make up the bulk of the film, whether in cars, bars, or hotel rooms or on street corners.
Brad Pitt is a sleek and enigmatic presence as Jackie Cogan, a professional killer who's as exasperated by the stupidity around him as he is obsessed with the details of doing his job right. After an odd couple of hapless losers (Scoot McNairy and Ben Mendelsohn, who are a hoot) hit a mob-run card game, Jackie is called in to clean up the mess. Richard Jenkins is in terrific form as the befuddled mob accountant who reluctantly gives him the assignment. Thinking he'll need help with the job, Jackie enlists his long-time associate Mickey. But as inhabited by James Gandolfini, Mickey turns out to be a slovenly mess who Jackie clearly sees is past his prime. There are two long, highly oblique scenes between Pitt and Gandolfini that crackle with greatness. Also in the soup of clouded meaning and distinctive formal structure is Ray Liotta as Markie, the boob who runs the card game. A rain-soaked scene that has Markie at the four-fisted end of a brutal beat-down is one of the most vicious and visually poetic fights ever seen.
The master of all the talking, fleeting sequences of grisly violence and philosophizing about financial downfall and change (the movie is set on the cusp of 2008's economic crisis and presidential campaign) is director Andrew Dominik. Much as he did in 2007's The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (also starring Brad Pitt), Dominik is much more interested in the nuanced detail of manner and attitude than the physical action that results. That's not to say that Killing Them Softly doesn't excel at the remarkable execution of classic crime-drama set pieces. But the movie and its characters take a lot of time to hang back and observe and listen to get at the real meaning of how things happen and why. It's a process that's fascinating to watch, no matter how trivial the detail or how shocking the result. --Ted Fry
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Top Customer Reviews
The actors are all great. It has a stellar cast who do their best, plus the cinematography is all top notch. There's some, but not as much as you may have been led to believe, violence in it. If you've heard this is a violent film, they're probably referring to one particular scene midway through the film. Apart from that, there's actually very little else that will shock you visually.
So it has good actors, a good setting, quirky dialogue and a premise that, although not totally original, is certainly watchable. I can see how some people liked it. Although, not everyone did. Some may say that the only thing missing from such greatness is a story. The narrative doesn't really have much focus and flits back and forth from different people leaving you wondering where you'll be next.
And then there's the politics. Throughout the film we're constantly seeing the 2012 presidential election campaign on TV screen. Apparently (and I have to confess that I didn't get this) the whole film is an allegory of modern America, i.e. one character represents the American public's sense of despair and apathy, while another represents the American public's sense of knowing what's really happening, but knowing they can't do anything about it and so on.
There's a lot to like about Killing Them Softly. There are some very good bits here and there. But then that's the problem - for every good scene there's a dull one that either goes on for too long or doesn't go anywhere.
Not bad, but could have been better.
The reason why they believe they can get away with the job is because Markie Trattman (Ray Liotta) had done this job once before. He will surely be blamed. After the job is pulled, hitman Jackie (Brad Pitt) is brought in to sort things out and make things right. Jackie is thoughtful, soft spoken, and cynical. Since he knows Johnny, he hires Mickey (James Gandolfini) to do the job, a man who has multiple issues.
There are a number of things which set this film apart from other crime movies. First is the dialouge. It is clear the people are uneducated, except for Jackie who speaks as if he lives in two worlds. The ignorance of the robbers is brought to light when they wear bright yellow cleaning gloves to perform their task.
The second aspect is the background sound on both the radio, TV, and jukeboxes. It is the macrocosm of what is happening on the screen, and sometimes in an ironic fashion. The time period is the 2008 election season during the financial collapse. We hear "restore confidence in the financial system" and "it's all too familiar" on the radio when Markie is about to take the fall. Every time "B" actor Ray Liotta got punched or kicked, I would think, This is for "Entitled" or This is for "Ticket Out." Here is one for "The Son of No One."
The symbolism of the background announcements is brought to light at the end, in case you failed to catch it in the opening scene. A smart film for people who enjoy crime dramas.
Parental Guide: F-bombs, no sex, no nudity. Blood splatter, killing, beatings.
Clunky snatches of speeches from the likes of Barack Obama and George Bush play in the background (and sometimes the foreground), while Pitt laconically goes his way, and adds to the general blood-letting and mayhem, clearly reflecting the emasculation and disillusionment that modern America - and indeed the Western world - find themselves thoroughly immersed in.
I did not find any of these characters attractive, not in to be around, just grim and deadly. Brad Pitt plays a hitman, come to town to take care of three characters who mussed up the works. A poker game was hit and the minions who pulled the job need to be taken care of. Marie Trattman played by Ray Liotta is a man with a big problem. Richard Jenkins plays the driver, some sort of middle man who makes the deals. He hires Pitt and James Gandolfini as the hitman to make the mark. Gandolfini is havering relationship problems and is so depressed,he is drinking himself into a mess. Action needs to occur and Pitt is there to make sure it does.
The message of this film appears to be two fold. One: America is a business, just like the Mob. Two: the Mob and Politics are sometimes one and the same. When there is a financial Depression, the Mob suffers as much as the country. Make if this what you will. Superb acting by all. Plenty of blood and violence for all looking for this sort of thing.
Recommended. prisrob 05-29-13
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Just about acceptable because of the 'hidden' perspective of the U.S.
It's an unsavoury subject, wanton serious bullying and uncaring hoodlums prepared to kill their fellow... Read more
Not as good as I was expecting. Still worth a watch at the right price.Published 1 month ago by Clem
Brad is cool but brutal. One of his best movies as far as I'm concerned.Published 1 month ago by Robert Snedden
Rather than an out and out gangster thriller, Killing them softly plays almost as a series of dialogue driven scenes. Read morePublished 2 months ago by chelios1981