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The Warsaw Voice » World of Movies » December 21, 2012
Film review
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Killing Them Softly
December 21, 2012   
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Andrew Dominik introduced himself to international audiences in 2007 with a western succinctly entitled The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. The 40-year-old director exposed viewers to 160 minutes of paralyzing boredom sprinkled with moronic dialogues from characters who appeared to be intellectually challenged, to put it mildly. Dominik said that his aim had been to “demythologize” the legend of the Wild West. What Dominik wanted to demythologize in his new film is anybody’s guess, but at least this time round he has shown some mercy, as Killing Them Softly clocks in at a mere 95 minutes or so. Other than that, the two films are painfully alike.

A mobster has a can’t-fail plan to rob an illegal gambling joint, take all the money off the players and then frame somebody else. To carry out the job for him he hires two rookie criminals whose IQ would struggle to make it beyond two digits. The pair carry out the robbery and instantly become hunted by the local underworld. The syndicate that rules the city hires a hitman by the name of Cogan (Brad Pitt—Troy, Spy Game, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button). He, in turn, teams up with Mickey (James Gandolfini—The Sopranos, The Last Castle, Crimson Tide) to carry out the contract and that is basically the whole plot.

Killing Them Softly is based on a novel written some 40 years ago, but the plot has been given a contemporary twist and moved to 2008. This trick has allowed the film makers to deliver what they think is an interesting context—the recent financial crisis in America. Accordingly, viewers are constantly fed images of election posters and talking politicians, Barack Obama included, shown on television screens in bars and hotels. Every now and then, gangsters and hitmen reflect on the recession, on social stratification and the law of the jungle that governs life in the U.S. But none of that contributes much to the story, leaving audiences totally indifferent.

The only upside to Killing Them Softly is the presence of screen veterans Pitt and Gandolfini. Too bad neither of them gets to act much, as neither the script nor the dialogue allow them to shine. Even worse, they do not come on screen until after the first half hour.

Visually, the movie is just as bad. The camera carefully studies the dirty faces, hands, beards and nails of the characters, a “sophisticated” technique which reaches a climax in the autopsy room scene at the end of the movie. In the meantime, you are exposed in detail to the fascinating adventure that is a ride from New Orleans to Florida in a car full of defecating and urinating dogs where the windows cannot be opened.

As I was leaving the theater, I kept asking myself why a movie like Killing Them Softly would even be made in the first place. The only thing I could think of was dangerously close to a conspiracy theory: what if Dominik’s flick was sponsored by tobacco corporations? Almost all the actors, Pitt included, have cigarettes hanging from their mouths at all times and many scenes are shot through a cloud of smoke. Even so, if the global tobacco giants wanted to appeal to movie-going audiences, they surely could have chosen a better film.
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