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 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.
First off the bat let me tell you what this movie is not...
1.A fast paced crime caper with zany criminals with bazookas
2.Not about robbing plush casinos
3.No limping masterminds
Now this is not to say there is anything wrong with a zany caper concerning criminals who rob a plush casino with bazookas,in fact I love those type of movies.But I thought i'd save the more discerning viewer 90 minutes or so as well as a couple of quid.Killing Them Softly is a bit more about the nuances,sitting in the cars talking about jobs,watching people sweat and actually showing that carrying out a hit can be a bit of a chore.
There's nice performances from all involved and I have to say my respect for Pitt has increased,i have really enjoyed Jesse James,Tree Of Life and this movie.Credible,artistic movies.I can't think of many mainstream actors who would say such lines about Thomas Jefferson being a wino and America purely being a business.
My one complaint would be the ramming of the economic theme,WE get it.It did seem at one point there was a constant Obama or Bush speech playing.Once would have sufficed.And made the point.
I liked this movie,who knows if you will?BUT if you liked Dominiks previous you will enjoy,nice shots,solid acting,good script.I have seen other people mocking Softly saying its tryin to be "Tarantino esque",if anything I would argue to the very opposite.If it was trying to be that it would be Tarantino on tranquilisers at the least.
I look forward to Dominiks next movie,heck I may even go see War War Z.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
bad script bad sound poor filming boring film all over the place rubbish worst Brad Pitt film ever very disappointed
and I paid for this film cant believe it
Really poor film, expected so much more. Just didn't do it for me. Pity.Published 2 months ago by R. Hovey