Twitter Plot Summary: Brad Pitt’s hitman is a fan of getting up close when bumping people off. Sadly he doesn’t kill them softly with his words. He uses a gun.
Five Point Summary:
1. An almost too sawn-off shotgun.
2. Spats of blood and awesomeness.
3. Lots of sitting around talking.
4. A visual representation of what it feels like being on drugs.
5. Finally, a point is made about the barrage of US politics!
Killing Them Softly is a film that is littered with numerous television and radio broadcasts relating to US politics, because somebody clearly thought at the time that linking US politics to the ins and outs of contract killings was being big and clever. That’s actually not the case, because whilst there is a payoff for this by the end it doesn’t effectively link the woes besetting the nation’s economy with the macrocosm that is the local criminal economy. Unless the whole point being made is that politicians are crooks, in which case we don’t need it referenced every five minutes.
Ben Mendelsohn is perhaps the most entertaining individual character, almost constantly drenched in sweat and staggering around like a Walking Dead zombie thanks to his drug addiction. He plays one of two lowly criminals, alongside Scott McNairy, who rob a Mob card game and bring the local criminal economy to dissolve. It’s then up to Brad Pitt’s contract killer Jackie to bump off those responsible and restore balance to the criminal fraternity. A bit like a gangster Annakin Skywalker in that respect. He is unusual though in that he likes to get in close when he completes the contract, killing his target whilst being almost face to face. Nice to see he provides the personal touch.
Mendelsohn’s scenes are good, but the most compelling relationship is that between James Gandolfini’s mob boss and Brad Pitt’s hitman. They have a history together which is talked out in great detail, but doesn’t seem to go anywhere. Still, it does at least indicate what a phenomenal talent Gandolfini was, and the tragedy is that he didn’t get more substantial roles following his breakout performance in The Sopranos. Ray Liotta, meanwhile, is a surprise in that he’s usually a key player, a tough son of a gun who won’t let anybody trash talk him. In this instance he’s a key player – to an extent – but he lacks that killer instinct that defines most of his key performances in the crime genre. He’s also not got a huge amount to do, unfortunately.
Dialogue is in no hurry to be spoken, scenes play out naturally but lack tension or urgency. It seems like 60 pages of story stretched to nearly 100, and by an hour in you realise that not much has happened and it’s unlikely it will pick up much. Then again, this is from the same director that gave us the equally slow Assassination of Jesse James, although that one made a bit more of itself.
The violence at least is heavy hitting and presented in a typically gritty yet stylised fashion. The direction supports this by being equally as stylish and competent throughout. There are some nice flourishes admittedly, but it would be nice to see Andrew Dominik direct a script that has a bit more “oomph” to it.
You would expect more from a cast of this calibre, but they are let down by langorous plotting amidst brief dashes of brilliance. In the final scene there is a reference as to why US politics features so prominently in the background of the story, but by that point it’s almost too little too late. If a bit more time had been spent getting to the point rather than everybody having extended conversations like they’re in a poor man’s Tarantino flick, then there might have been more to write home about.