Cast: Brad Pitt, Richard Jenkins, James Gandolfini, Ray Liotta, Scoot McNairy, Ben Mendelsohn, Sam Shepherd, Slaine, Bella Heathcote, Vincent Curatola, Linara Washington, Garratt Dilahunt
These days, it is too often the case that watching a trailer is near enough admission to see the film itself. Two minutes of Inception tinged orchestral hits, cuts to black and every half decent piece of dialogue contained within the film leave nothing to our seemingly small imaginations. This being said, Killing Them Softly may be the exception that proves the rule.
For those that appreciate Andrew Dominik’s prior work, The Assassination of Jessie James by the Coward Robert Ford, this film promises not to disappoint. Throughout, lingering camera work and long drawn out sections of dialogue heighten the sense of realism and the film’s awkward feel. Scoot McNairy (Frankie) and Ben Mendelsohn (Russell) do a great job of complementing this camera work in their brilliant heist at the start of the film. Reminiscent of Goodfellas, a film with some of the best tracking shots known to cinema, the two men’s escape is a neat homage to this.
For all those that have watched and loved The Sopranos, James Gandolfini (Mickey) is once again on perfect form. Playing the part of a hitman facing divorce and another jail sentence, Gandolfini manages to show the fragility and humanity of a once powerful, but now broken and drunk man. Daydream-like monologues echo his former Tony Soprano style.
Similarly, Brad Pitt (Jackie Cogan) has many notable moments throughout the film; from explaining his dislike for the emotional attachment that comes from up close and personal killings, to intimidating Frankie to the point of tears in order to track down his employer and close friend. The most prominent of these moments punctuates the final scene. In the climax of Dominik’s commentary on the American economic crisis, expressed throughout the film in a series of diagetic radio and TV speeches made by George Bush and Barack Obama, Pitt announces, “Oh yes, we’re all the same. We’re all equal… I’m living in America, and in America, you’re on your own. America’s not a country, it’s a business. So f***ing pay me.”
Cut to black and cue the music, “Money (that’s what I want)”.
The commentary on the economic crisis works well, but ultimately falls short of its aim. A flood-destroyed New Orleans becomes a microcosm of the bigger financial situation, shown through the desolate and abandoned landscape. Pitt’s driver stealing a dollar tip left for the waitress, Gandolfini recalling the exact sum of money in his wallet, demanding no more than one hundred bucks be taken by his escort; all perfectly good ways of illustrating Dominik’s point. However, the point itself seems half-baked and possibly too subtle for a typical audience.
For all those who don’t like violence, steer away. For those that have no such aversions, the violence and deaths are captured in a brilliantly visceral and particularly macabre manner. While at times it may seem more of an exercise in cinematic techniques, overall it is a very good film – not worth missing and definitely worth seeing on the big screen.