At the Movies - Killing them Softly
So, what’s ‘Killing Them Softly’ all about?
Andrew Dominick’s (‘The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford’ and ‘Chopper’) film can be interpreted on a few different levels.
Level one - it’s about the futile existence of hit men and their stories add strength to the philosophy that in the murky American criminal underworld a criminal’s past is always his undoing.
Level two - it’s social commentary on an economically devastated and debt laden America.
Level three - it conveys that the fundamentals used by those at the top of governance and those at the bottom i.e. criminals, robbers and hit-men are essentially the same.
Dominick is a director with guile and ability - his previous two aforementioned films are classics and ‘Killing Them Softly’ is of the same ilk.
Two small time criminals, Frankie (McNairy - ‘Monsters’ and ‘Everything Will Happen Before You Die’) and Russell (Mendelsohn - ‘Animal Kingdom’ and ‘Killer Elite’) are paid by ‘Squirrel’ (Vincent Curatola - ‘The Sopranos’) to hold up a card game run by Markie Trattman (Liotta - ‘Goodfellas’ and ‘Cop Land’).
Trattman has a track record of robbing his own games so it’s hoped that the crime bosses will finger Trattman for the robbery.
Unknown hit-man, Jackie Cogan (Pitt - ‘Fight Club’ and ‘Seven’), is brought in to investigate and soon realises the identity of those behind the robbery.
Cogan is a hit-man with a conscience and can’t kill anyone he has met or kill anyone up close, hence the title - he likes ‘to kill them softly’.
Cogan gets help from fellow hit-man ‘New York’ Mickey (Gandolfini - ‘The Sopranos’, ‘In the Loop’ and ‘ The Last Castle’). Mickey is an alcoholic who uses prostitutes and it can be argued that he comes to represents the end game for hit-men, like Cogan.
The movie is set in 2008 during the American presidential election race between Barack Obama and John McCain. Throughout the film radio and television clips of both Obama and George W. Bush are played - it’s soon apparent that Dominick’s film is dark portrayal of how let down and disappointed Americans have become with life in the U.S.A.
If I was to have one criticism it would be that Dominick’s themes and symbolism felt a little too emphatic at times and use of Velvet Underground’s ‘Heroin’ in a scene where one of the main characters is taking heroin was as subtle as a smack up the face with a dead fish.
Brad Pitt is excellent, McNairy is top class and Gandolfini’s tragic Mickey is awesome.
It’s a violent film but it’s also wonderfully grim, dark and at time hilariously funny.
Dominick’s sense of timing is impeccable and the final scene is sure to one of 2012’s most talked about and savoured.
VERDICT - Based on a novel by George V. Higgins, Andrew Dominick’s ‘Killing Them Softly’ is one of 2012’s most intelligent movies and has plenty to say about life in America. The movie uses hit-men and small time criminals to convey the nonsensical morality that continues to grip a country laden by debt and funded by the tax payer. Pitt is back to his best, Gandolfini is awesome and McNairy is magnificent. Thematically felt over emphasised at times.
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Wednesday 19 June 2013
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