Killing Them Softly


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"America is not a country it's a business "

March 13th, 2013

There are certain films that have the power to draw you in by star power alone. During the trailer for Killing them softly, before I had even grasped what the plot was about the presence of Brad Pitt, Ray Liota, James Gandolfini and Richard Jenkins had already sold me my ticket (The fact that it was a gangster film was just icing).How amazing was the film with such a stellar cast ?– Meh, it was OK.

Taking place in 2008 a small band of petty criminals decide to rob a poker game that just happens to be run by Boston's organised criminal underground. Planning to get away with the crime by relying on a misunderstanding they didn't count on Brad Pitt's Jackie Cogan.

The plot may seem overly simplistic and there are no real prises for guessing the predictable turn of events but the narrative is not the real focus. While depicting a realistic look at organised crime (something I appreciated over explosions and plot twists) the film is dialogue based which allows for some excellent character development only its less about the characters and more an exercise in setting them up as an allegory (I'm seeing a pattern) hence the 2008 setting.

So we hit upon my main gripe which stands in the way of the movie being anything more than average. The undertones are anything but beating you around the head so violently you'd think Brad Pitt had caught you stealing. Not a scene goes by without reference to Bush and the upcoming Obama/McCain elections, radio broadcast in remote locations, TV debates in Cafes you'd have to be amazingly dense to not pick up on it.

What had the potential to be an intellectual powerhouse is weakened considerably as you grow tired of being spoon fed information, subtlety is not a friend of this film. With the climax of the film the characters convey its message in referencing Obama's win(and handled brilliantly it is) you realise that that alone could have served the movie better than the constant media references. It would then be that point that you acknowledge the cliché story had a deeper meaning (It would also encourage repeat viewings).

The cast were as outstanding as you'd expect but as the film went on I couldn't relate to them on an emotional level as they were symbols for society. The robbers were the proletariat, Jenkins middle man was an indecisive government, Pitt the cynical side to Capitalism (who punishes the meek) where Gandolfini showed the flip side of those who over indulgence in spoils (of course it's open to other interpretation).

The Direction is spectacular with a visual flair that evokes the madcap style of a guy Riche movie (minus the goofy comedy skits) mashed together with Tarantino's love of conversation. As with the later director the Soundtrack is also key with some wonderfully expressive songs that match the scenes they play over perfectly (although maybe a little too on the nose for some).

With so many great things going for it's too bad that I experienced a disconnect from the events on screen. If you ignore the film as an allegory your left watching a hollow slow paced cliché. Reject that and you have much to debate but little as a form of entertainment. Killing them softly may work better for you but I was disappointed and left with no desire to watch it again. I think a quote from Ralph Wiggam in the Simpsons sums up my feelings perfectly – "It symbolises obviousness"


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Movie Details

Movie Poster Here
Director:Andrew Dominik
Screenplay: Andrew Dominik
Released: 2012
Rating:18
Starring: Brad Pitt
Richard Jenkins
James Gandolfini