Starring: Brad Pitt, Richard Jenkins, Ray Liotta
You may like this if you liked: Pusher (Nicolas Winding Refn, 1996), Lawless (John Hillcoat, 2012), Rampart (Oren Moverman, 2011)
In some really moody run down part of America during the economic crash of 2008, three amateur crooks hold up a mob protected card game and steal all the money causing the collapse of the local criminal economy. The card games are run by Markie Trattman (Liotta) and due to common knowledge that he had previous games purposely raided all fingers point at him. To restore order, hit man Jackie Cogan (Pitt) is hired by a local gangster at the top of the tree to sort out Trattman and hunt down the amateurs that robbed the game.
After Andrew Dominik’s near perfect The Assassination of Jesse James I was expecting good things. However I was very disappointed. Killing Them Softly has a narrative that consists predominantly of episodes of slow dialogue-heavy scenes and the occasional scene of graphic violence. That is not ever a problem for me if it is a good film, but I found the whole experience alienating, frustrating and downright boring. Of course I ‘get it’ and the deeper meanings within the narrative about 21st century American society, and there is no doubting there is intelligent ideas involved within the film that are expressed and depicted very well. In fact with George Bush or Barack Obama talking on the radio every few scenes the whole message really does get crammed down our throats a little too much.
I have seen consistently excellent reviews for Killing Them Softly describing it as ‘well made’ and ‘intelligent film making’, I may be cynical but I just cannot help feeling people have been sucked in by the whole ‘intelligent film’ tag and are almost being a little deluded by being proud of themselves for ‘getting it’. There is no doubt at all in my mind that this film is indeed well directed and acted, as well as making some intelligent and I expect quite accurate observations on society. The characters in this film are all unglamorous, extremely flawed, and extremely hard to like and with the exception of Pitt’s character exceptionally useless. However the audience this film is aimed at will learn nothing new here and personally if I am to dedicate 90 minutes of my life to watching a film I want something in return. I get why the characters are extremely unlikeable, and why there is so much dialogue, but for me Killing Them Softly just simply does not work as a film as it is just an extremely frustrating and infuriating experience. It does not get anyone thinking as we could learn everything depicted here from taking a few minutes to read a news article. In fact if the final scene involving Pitt and Jenkins existed in isolation it would make all the exact some points that the previous ninety minutes had just as effectively.
Killing Them Softly is well made, acted and makes intelligent points well. However in my view simply just does not work as a feature length film, producing a very alienating, frustrating and quite frankly boring experience. I was extremely disappointed and would strongly advice against ever watching this, just watch the news instead.