Killing Them Softly (Andrew Dominik, 2012)

posted in: Duane, Jocelyn, Joint Review, Review | 0
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A professional enforcer gets tasked with cleaning up the mess when a wise guy hires an imbecile and a drug addict to rob a local mob protected card game, causing the local criminal economy to collapse.
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Razor88: A simple enough premise, with a lot of preachy undertones permeate the latest (and only 3rd?!?) feature by Andrew Dominik (writer and director of Chopper – which is fucking awesome, by the way). I don’t like being lectured – especially  when a film has such an obvious political agenda – so I have to say that took me right out of it from the get-go. Killing Them Softly is set during the culmination of the US Presidential race directly preceding Obama’s first term in office. Needless to say, the film is chock full of debate footage and endless whining about the shitty US economy ad nauseam… we fucking get it… even the criminal underground was hurting. Enough already. This was certainly in my opinion overstated and for the most part unnecessary. The concept is intriguing and thought-provoking enough I just don’t feel the audience needed the point hammered home at every given opportunity like some sort of radio filler to alleviate “dead air”. Dear Hollywood: For the most part you are fucking stupid to begin with, please leave your bullshit political opinions out of your films. I swear any asshole with a camera and studio backing thinks they have some sort of duty to educate the masses.

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Nom De Plume:  Well. It’s interesting, ya know… I did feel like I was getting hit over the head with a god damned hammer but if you can get past that (seriously, any time there is a television, radio, car stereo….it’s used to its full extent to make sure that you get the fucking point, which gets tiring unless you’re the kind of spoon-fed dunce cap that needs to be browbeaten) we’ve got the irresistible, no-nonsense, positively alluring Jackie Cogan (played flawlessly by Pitt) who acts as the oh-so-steady hand of inevitability. He’s the man behind the scenes, the man who doesn’t let production stop and he restores your faith in capitalism the criminal element after you thought all was lost… and even though he just blew your brains all over the car interior, you understand how infinitesimal you are to the machine.

I mean, come on! If mobsters can’t feel comfy gambling in their own back yards then what the fuck is this world coming to? It is indeed a heavy-handed allegory for the post-Katrina economic devastation and heady political climate of that time. I can see where a lot of mouth breathers would be pissed off that this was not the clichéd shoot-em-up guido bullshit that they signed up for, but that’s a good thing.  This film isn’t for everyone. Personally, I’m so sick of the steady stream of bullshit that comes out of Hollywood that I barely even notice what’s available. Knowing that Dominik was writing (based on the book Cogan’s Trade by George V. Higgins) and directing coupled with the caliber of names attached (some familiar Dominik players as well) I couldn’t help but permit myself a small bit of excitement. Killing-Them-Softly-25284-2529

R88:  It’s definitely not Goodfellas, that’s for sure. The violence in this for one thing… it’s truly a fucking work of art. There’s not a ton of it, but when it happens it’s both relentless and poetic…and  I loved the use of the slow motion for the bulk of it. It takes what would normally be a 10 second scene and stretches it to minutes… you can sit there jaw agape and admire the beauty of a bullet tearing through someone’s head as the car window glass rains softly down, raindrops splash ominously as the bullet casing tumbles off into the night… this is seriously going to look incredible on Blu-ray. In fact I had to remark to myself that I haven’t seen such beautiful slow motion kill scenes since Pieces (and Argento’s brilliant bullet through the eye in Opera) – there’s even a scene that almost parallels what you were talking about in our review of Pieces with the dishwashing gloves. Sure, it’s coincidental but I like to pretend it’s inspired nonetheless… because I’m fucked in the head. Pitt was awesome in this and shows he can still play a gritty, no-nonsense badass and Ray Liotta was absolutely wonderful as Marky, whose error in judgment got the ball rolling and inevitably sealed his fate… I actually felt sorry for him. Very few films have elicited that sort of response from this shriveled black heart I assure you. Then we have James Gandolfini who is always great… real top notch performances all around. Killing Them Softly being essentially a commentary on how nothing escapes the cold grip of capitalism there isn’t a whole lot of action here, but plenty of extrapolation and thoughtful (even meticulously crafted) dialogue and a bit of humor to break up the severity of the subject matter. My only other complaint is that I found it to be a bit too short. I enjoyed how the ending was so abrupt (being a huge fan of Bret Easton Ellis has conditioned me to appreciate such things) but I found I was just left wanting more. This could have easily have had a 2.5 hour run time and I’d have been happy with it. This is a solid film that I think will hold up to repeated viewings.

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Nom: Yea, I really hate to sit and keep overstating the obvious but being that the source material is so amazing, the adaptation and direction blowing me away and the performances by some pretty heavy hitters being a real treat to watch…I can’t say enough positive about this film. It’s a rare thing to watch a movie (especially something from the last decade) and feel like you just weren’t quite ready for it to end. What Dominik managed to do was take this very serious and tragic set of circumstances with all its donkey and elephant bullshit in tow and force you to reexamine it by flipping it on its ass and making you view it in a different light. Whatever your political affiliation you can appreciate the artistry of drawing parallels between our biggest financial meltdown since The Great Depression, the sliminess of those involved set against the backdrop of a ravaged and corrupt New Orleans. Nobody knows what the fuck they’re doing, they poke around scared, daring to dip their toes back into the murky waters of uncertainty all the while being frightened children with no life vests. They’re relying on imbeciles to make it right and who should come along to make sense of the senseless and get us back on track? Jackie. A verb if I ever saw one. He is action incarnate, greasing the wheels and lining his pockets.  I’ll be damned if I didn’t want to spend another 2 hours watching him do what he does best.  Every man for himself, indeed.

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Dominik is masterful and he’s made a film that’s entertaining on so many levels – you can drink deeply from that well or merely glance at your reflection and move on. Either way, there’s something for everyone. I’m already looking forward to giving it another viewing.

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Official COSDS Nunspank Rating:

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Duane co-founded The Church of Splatter-Day Saints in 2005. When not immersed in film he's enjoying good whiskey, smoking meat in the backyard or thinking about sluts. He makes a damn fine habanero fire sauce.

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