<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by Andrew Dominik. Starring Brad Pitt, Ray Liotta, Richard Jenkins, James Gandolfini, Scoot McNairy, Ben Mendelsohn.
Some people will hate me for not liking this film but hey, I have to be honest and true to what I feel. Killing Them Softly just didn’t cut it for me. Sure you can think of it being gangster noir and cerebral with a message to tell. But it was way too dull and unimpressive to make me feel anything for it.
Interestingly shot with a grimy, gritty feel about it and clearly set a few years ago when the American presidential election was happening and Senator Barrack Obama was campaigning for ‘Change’. And director Andrew Dominik (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford) reminds you of this period throughout the movie showing you debates and speeches on TV and radio from the candidates Obama and Bush. There’s also a backdrop of the financial crisis that hit America with the collapse of Lehman Brothers. And it’s quite in your face.
Two dunderhead gangsters played by Scoot McNairy and Ben Mendelsohn take on a job to heist a poker game. But not just any poker game, one that is played by gang bosses. Now these guys were robbed in the past by gang boss Markie Trattman (Ray Liota) who didn’t pay the price the first time around. Another hit on the place would lay suspicions directly on Markie meaning the real culprits would go unsuspected with the loot. The deal goes down and sure enough, so does Markie. But the gangs have to find the two lowlifes and for that they hire Jackie Cogan (Brad Pitt) a slick hit man who lives by a code and believes that America isn’t one big community, just one big business.
As you can see my lack of interest in writing about this film shows you how interested I was during the screening. There’s lots of gang lingo mumbo-jumbo, swear words, violence and talk of fucking a nice piece of ass. You’re meant to feel sorry for the second hit man played by Gandolfini who is in and out of jail, trying to make ends meet but trying to stay out of trouble cause his wife will end up sleeping around if he’s not with her. The recession has hit hard and he need the money but he can’t kill two, just one, he says otherwise his parole will be revoked and his wife will start fucking around again. This scene with Brad Pitt is interesting but just loses out on drama and there are also some editing blunders (watch the drinks that are brought to the table).
If you like films about gangs and Italian mobsters talking like they do in gang films then you’ll love this film; you may even like the slo-mo shots director Andrew Dominic uses as a bullet exits a revolver and careens towards Markie through a car door window. And another one where the drug addict con played by Mendelsohn goes in and out of a state of being high (I found it senseless though). And there’s a funny scene where one of the goons lights up a car’s gas tank to ‘destroy the evidence’ and ends up getting a bit destroyed in the process. The only part that I liked in the movie.
Brad Pitt acts well but he looks like he does in every other movie and there’s nothing different going on here really. If he wanted to make a comment on America and the evils of Wall Street – even the gangsters have to bargain on the rates to kill someone – then he’s chosen an indirect and ineffective way to do go about it, in my opinion.