KILLING THEM SOFTLY (2012)
There was a bit of a backlash against KILLING THEM SOFTLY because the trailers made it seem like a Guy Richie-esque crime thriller with a bad-ass Brad Pitt in the lead when in actuality, the movie is a more subdued character piece about a financial crisis in the crime world that reflects what’s happening on the national stage. I originally saw it as the middle part of a triple-feature I was seeing that day in the theater. I had heard it got good reviews and was curious enough to spend 97 min of my time between the two movies I was actually there to see. Ironically it was my favorite movie that day.
Watching it again last night reminded me why I liked the movie so much. It’s a slow burn film, as one would expect from Director Andrew Dominik (THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES), about an attempt to rob a protected card game and pin the crime on an innocent. As you can imagine it doesn’t go as planned and to keep the local criminal economy from crashing, the big boys bring in Brad Pitt to find and kill the thieves to return confidence to the community.
The plot is fairly thread bare and that’s the point. It’s really about how mundane and matter of fact this whole situation is. All the kills are treated as part of the job and each comes with the day-to-day annoyances that most Americans face in the legitimate word of business. We bare witness to how crime operates when the economy is down, where the price of a hit is negotiable and confidence in the system is key.
The film is populated with fine low-key performances from Richard Jenkins, Ray Liotta and James Gandolfini (in one of his final roles). The movie isn’t perfect but it’s worth the time and Dominik has fun with the intrinsically satiric material, which includes quiet moments as well as both raw and quite elegant graphic violence.