Reviewed By

Christopher Armstead
You see, this is what happens when you do Chanel No. 5 commercials.  Brad Pitt, the star of director Andrew Dominik's beyond gritty crime thriller 'Killing Them Softly', delivers arguably his finest performance since '12 Monkeys' damn near twenty years ago, and nobody goes to see it.  I'm thinking that Brad should have enough fans to push this movie over the break even line, but then why go see your favorite actor in a movie that isn't all that flattering towards his beauty when you can see him on regular TV in awful Chanel No. 5 commercials? 

Another reason Brad's fans might've let this one slide could be because he doesn't show up until about twenty minutes in.  Until then we get to hang out with Frankie (Scoot McNairy) and Russell (Ben Mendelsohn), a pair of gentlemen we could call losers… but then that would be giving losers a bad name.  On this particular day Frankie and Russell are meeting up with dry cleaning operator Penguin (Vincent Curatola) who has a job for them.  It's an easy gig according to Penguin, but he doesn't trust the greasy, dirty, smelly Australian Russell.  He just knows that Russell is going to screw things up.  My friends, always go with your first instinct.  Always.

The job is to knock over a mob sponsored card game.  Even Frankie, who's not the brightest bulb in the box, knows that this is an awful idea, but Penguin assures him that they're safe because of some rigmarole that went down at a card down a while back and that the dude who runs these card games, Markie (Ray Liotta) will get the blame.  Nice and easy.

So Fankie and Russell pull the job and it is nice and easy.  And Markie does kind of get the blame.  This brings Jackie (Pitt) into the game under the slippery direction of some odd bureaucratic looking cat who is only known as The Driver (Richard Jenkins).  Simply,
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Jackie is a hitman, The Driver is the liaison between the mob and the hitmen, and he needs Jackie to find out who did this and eliminate them.  The problem being that the mob has apparently given in to the corporate way of doing things and as such meetings have to be convened, money has to be haggled over, decisions have to be sent up the corporate chain…. It sucks.  I'm surprised these mobsters don't have a 90-day wait pay period for their executioners.

Eventually Jackie finds out who has done this thing, thanks to Russell, and the job is on.  He wanted to toss some work to the way of his assassin colleague Mickey (James Gandolfini) but Mickey's priority at this moment in time is to be a self-pitying, whore-mongering drunk.  He's useless.  It's up to Jackie to handle this business all by his lonesome, which we don't see as too much of a problem because Jackie is nothing if not professional and efficient, but the corporate mob micro management manifesto?  That'll be death of all criminal empires if this is allowed to continue.  And they're not getting a bailout. 

Personally speaking, I mightily enjoyed Andrew Dominik's 'Killing them Softly'.  Almost loved it almost.  I probably would've loved it if the director had stopped bashing me over the head with his allegorical concepts of the downfall of America since I did kind of get it rather early, but I guess he just wanted to be sure I go it.  I got it Andrew, I got it. 

Simply judging by the fact that I used the word 'Allegory' while preparing to describe a gritty mob movie should let you know that 'Killing them Softly' isn't your typical mob movie and I could see where this could lead to some disappointment for some.  So while 'Killing Them Softly' is violent, sometimes shockingly so, the majority of the action consists of people sitting in cars talking to each other, sitting in bars talking to each other, sitting in hotels talking to each other… you get the idea, there's a lot of talking in this movie. 

Ahh… but the words coming out of these actors mouths is so darned good and the actors that are reciting these words that are coming out of their mouths are so darned good that, for me at least, this was almost like watching 'True Lies' or something with words substituting for explosions and shootouts and this is where the entertainment value of this film comes from. 

Also, as you can probably tell from the subject matter, this is one unpleasant movie.  The environments are drab, the sun doesn't shine, these conversations I enjoyed so much are usually about killing somebody, or stealing from somebody or killing somebody for stealing from somebody and none of this miserable atmosphere is lightened by a feminine presence.  There is a woman in the movie, a prostitute played by Linara Washington, but she's just about as unpleasant as everybody else in this grim movie, so needless to say don't enter into this film looking for a positive role model or searching for your happy place.

Then there are the parallels between depressing violence on the streets and the white collar oppression being thrust upon us by the suits in D.C. and Wall Street.  I guess we could surmise that the roles have switched.  The mob is stuck micromanaging their dwindling profits while the true gangsters on Wall Street continue to rake in profits under the protection of governmental regulation.  It's every man for himself.  We're being sold a bill of goods.  We're being hoodwinked.  While I did appreciate the integration of these two diverging and disparate worlds merging into a singular topic, I didn't appreciate getting clubbed to death with it.

Nonetheless I am a sucker for a crime drama with good dialog and great acting.  'Killing Them Softly' gave me that and maybe added in a little extra that I'm thinking I could've done without, but an enjoyable experience all the same.
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