¨This guy wants to tell me we're living in a community? Don't make me laugh. I'm living in America, and in America you're on your own. America's not a country. It's just a business.¨
Killing Them Softly is Andrew Dominik’s latest film which was nominated for the Palme d’Or in last year’s Cannes film festival. I really had high expectations for this film, but was disappointed with this noir action film. The entire film was a political allegory, but I really didn’t enjoy it all, and felt the political messages were a little too heavy and tiring. The highlight of Killing Them Softly was Brad Pitt’s performance, but in the first half of the film he gets very little screen time. This is the second time that Pitt works with Dominik after having worked with him in the critically acclaimed The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. That film was more beautifully shot in my opinion, but of course this being a sort of noir film the cinematography was much dirtier. It was shot using Kodak’s 500T 5230 film stock which gave the film a much darker and grayish tone to help set the mood of the story. Killing Them Softly was loosely based on George V. Higgins novel, Cogan’s Trade, and adapted for the screen by Dominik himself. The film has a lot of dialogues going on and little action, which isn’t exactly a problem for me considering I enjoy Tarantino films, but the dialogues in this movie were just not that entertaining, and the characters weren’t really memorable. Dominik was forcefully giving the film a political message and it was just too heavy handed for my taste, but I know many people enjoyed it so I can’t say Dominik failed. I’m simply not into political movies so I didn’t appreciate this very much. If you enjoy politics then you might appreciate the political allegory behind this action thriller, which in my opinion didn’t add anything new to the genre. It was very predictable.
Johnny Amato (Vincent Curatola) hires two amateur criminals, Frankie (Scoot McNairy) and Russell (Ben Mendelsohn) to perform a heist at a Mob poker ring operating in New Orleans. Markie (Ray Liotta) is the proprietor of the place, and when the two amateurs rob him, the mafia blames Markie for the heist since he has had a similar history in the past and the local criminal economy has collapsed. The mafia’s messenger is played by Richard Jenkins who we only know as the driver. He hires a hitman named Jackie Cogan (Brad Pitt) to kill everyone responsible for the heist in order for balance to be restored amongst the mob world. While all these situations are taking place we have several voiceovers playing in the background (television or radio ads) with political messages from Bush and Obama, in order to make sure the viewer understands the political allegory that is taking place here. The plot is pretty simple and not much happens between each dialogue that is taking place. James Gandolfini also has a funny role in this film as an alcoholic hitman.
The true star of the film is Brad Pitt who delivers each line in a very cool way without overdoing himself or going overboard with his character. He seems like a man who is in control. In one of his speeches he mentions how he doesn’t like it when his victims get all touchy and feely about being killed so he prefers killing them softly from a distance, thus the title for the film. That line and the last one he shares with the driver are perhaps the best scenes in this movie. I also have to say that Scoot McNairy gave a pretty good performance in the supporting role. He really seems like the main character of the film during the first half and he gives a solid performance. I really wasn’t familiar with his work although I do realize he was in Argo, but had very little screen time there. Overall I really was disappointed with this film and felt it didn’t present anything new to the neo-noir genre. There were few action scenes, but I really didn’t care much for the characters so I wasn’t immersed into this world that Dominik was trying to suck us into.