Killing Them Softly

I go to the movies a lot – usually on some form of FREE ticket since I’m a cheapskate. This past weekend I took my wife to see Killing Them Softly.

Killing Them Softly (2012) – Rated R

“Jackie Cogan is an enforcer hired to restore order after three dumb guys rob a Mob protected card game, causing the local criminal economy to collapse. “

“America is not a country, it’s a business “

First, let me say that the trailer to Killing Them Softly is great. It highlights some nice lines of dialogue, gives you a glimpse of some good ideas, and shows a couple action scenes. The only thing bad about the trailer is it presents a deceptive idea of Killing Them Softly.

I’d like to talk about the acting first. Brad Pitt does his normal star turn with a nice delivery, not bad but no range required as the enforcer. I do feel the need to mention that he is only nominally the star here as he doesn’t show up until the second act.

James Gandolfini has a rather morose supporting role as another enforcer. If it were someone else I would say the acting was good but this is just recycling the self-pitying portions of Tony Soprano. Richard Jenkins turns in a nice supporting performance as always.

Ben Mendelsohn (Russell) and Scoot McNairy (Frankie) play two of the robbers as lowlifes and they are very convincing. Ray Liotta turns in a sad sack performance but could have been better. Sam Shepard obviously had his scenes hit the cutting room floor as we only see him for about thirty seconds.

The writing and direction, both by Andrew Dominik, are simply awful. The script is unbelievably misogynistic and there is a particular dialogue exchange that is very difficult to sit through.

Speaking of dialogue exchanges, that is pretty much all you get with Killing Them Softly. The movie is just an endless set of one-on-one dialogue exchanges. Some of them work, most of them do not. The film has a meager running time of an hour and thirty-seven minutes yet it feels over two hours. Much of the dialogue tries desperately to be raunchy and clever a la Tarantino but falls flat when it isn’t being actively offensive.

There are a few minor action sequences. There is an exceptionally brutal (and unnecessary) beating that serves a point but all I could think was that Dominik was trying to outdo the ear scene in Reservoir Dogs. My delicate flower of a wife had to cover her ears during this sequence. There is a murder that seems to go on forever because Dominik thinks it is stylish. What starts quite well almost reaches the point of parody by the end. I did like that gunfire actually sounded realistic in the film.

The theme of the film is the economy. The script by itself would have been very heavy-handed in this regard but still not bad. Unfortunately when Dominik the director adapted Dominik the writer’s script, he chose to feature an endless series of voice-overs and news reports featuring George W. Bush and Barack Obama discussing the economy. Some of them even drown out the dialogue.

Avoid this movie.