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Criminal Underworld Microcosmos As Politcal Analogy,
This review is from: Killing Them Softly [DVD] (DVD)
Andrew Dominick's latest film is clearly one that has and will continue to split opinion. On the one hand it is a tighly wound & incredibly slow burning black comedy thriller about America's filthy underbelly & on the other a polictical analogy & highly serious film dealing with heavy issues. Much has been made of the films polictical undercurrent. Some find it heavy handed, too obvious or just plain intrusive. In truth, it didn't really bother me too much. I knew before watching that it was going to be there & that there would be heavy media soundbites to act as a constant reminder of the directors intentions. It is entirely possible to watch the film as a straight crime drama, albeit an incredibly bleak, unpatronising & at times quite funny crime drama. To concentrate too much on the polictical & economic message, no matter how culturally relevant now as it was when the film was set (2008) would be to take away from what the film achieves.
It's true that the film is slow, concentrates on it's characters heavy dialogue & is incredibly nihilistic & bleak. Misogyny, male rage & the futility of the criminal lifestyle are all examined by Dominick's uncompromising eye & yet looking past that, I found this film strangely exhilarating & enjoyable in a grim sense. There is a strange, yet distinctive style to this film that gives it the feel of a neo-noir. The director has an incredible feel for the language of cinema & expertly creates tension in several of the scenes notably the heist & the beating of Ray Liotta's character, which I found to be one of the nastiest & most effectively seen in films of this type. What's also interesting is the films re-imagining of the gangster film. The characters are gangsters by definition but there is no glamourising, no sentimentality or romanticism shown towards them. They are scum & will live & die that way. It is also a film about men and has very few, if any female characters. The light in which these characters is shown is a definite comment on the anger & clipped machismo apparent within criminal society, which is dominated by men (possibly a suggestion of society in general?).
I personally feel the gangster film & crime drama in general needs this type of alternative cinema, much like Nicholas Winding Refn's 'Drive'. It might be the fact that Andrew Dominick is an Australian working in America with mainly American actors & thus has an outsiders view on the American crime drama which has helped create what I think is a very original film. Much like 'Drive', this film has a style & creative energy although it may not be as immediately apparent. It's certaintly not as stylish or self consciously cool as Refn's film & I think that works in it's favour. For all the criticism levelled at the film's political message, the subtlety of style & pacing, much like his previous film 'The Assassination of Jesse James..', displays Dominicks gift for judging the length of his films & a clever use of structure & technique. I dont think 'Killing' is quite as good as his previous effort, some scenes felt a little out of place & too much like style over substance, but on the whole it is still a very well balanced & creative work.
If you are not bothered by slow moving, character & dialogue based cinema, you may enjoy this more than you think. The acting by all involved, particularly Brad Pitt as detached hitman Coogan, Ben Mendelsohn's amoral drug addict & Richard Jenkins as the maffia middleman, is fantastic & worth the watch alone. Maybe not a classic but certainly a film I will return to & worth 90 odd minutes of your time.