Rating: 3 stars out of 5
If you're an avid follower of movie news in general, you would have read that ‘Killing Them Softly’ tanked hard at the American box office. That's not a necessarily a reflection on the quality of the movie, though if you've seen the previous effort from the Domink/Pitt team up, you would have probably realized that this movie is more of a passion pet project thing for them. That being said, “Killing Them Softly” is not a movie for everyone. This movie has lots of ambition, and those big ideas are on display on the movie screen.
Brad Pitt stars and produces in his second team up with writer/director Andrew Dominik; the first being 2007's ‘The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford’. This movie is based on the 1974 novel, ‘Cogan's Trade’ by George V. Higgins, and has been updated by Dominik to the modern world.
The plot of the movie is set against the backdrop of the 2008 global financial meltdown and the US Presidential Race of the same year. The events of the movie align with this backdrop in such a way that the movie seems to be political commentary about how America and capitalism really works. Dominik moves the film along at a very deliberate pace, alternating between many dialogue heavy tête-à-têtes and the occasional bout of brutal cinematic violence expected of mob movies. There is style a plenty, the sharp dialogue is often grimly humorous, with many a scene accompanied by a wry choice of music – giving the movie a slightly poetic feel. And of course, the violence hits home hard, like a sledgehammer. Nothing subtle about the movie in that department.
The problem with all this is though is that the thing just takes a while to get going. There are many lulls in between the long talks that may or may not be very entertaining to a viewer. It almost seems like Andrew Dominik was enjoying himself way too much here. It's vulgar and intelligent but the comparison of gangsters taking care of business to how bail outs are done is very apt but viewers may miss the point of it all. There's a unique rhythm to the movie that may be off putting to mainstream cinema goers. Simply put, this is going to be a very divisive film for most people.
‘Killing Them Softly’ is a very well-crafted piece of work. It's got style by the dozen, witty, and the performances are razor sharp. It's a particular pleasure watching Pitt work his through a comic dialogue driven neo-noir.
However, the moments between the brilliance often involves a wee bit of foot tapping, sometimes going into the “too talkative” zone of things, and may come off as a second rate Quentin Tarantino movie.
The obvious flaw here is that it doesn't hold up the energy just as well as Tarantino movies normally do. The movie is at his best when it's being all gritty, punctuated by an awesome scene/monologue at the end.
Ultimately, this movie isn't for everyone. Go watch it if you're into violence with a dose of socio-political commentary.