Killing Them Softly suffers from a myriad of issues that pinpointing one is an arduous task — a task, in fact, only surpassed by actually watching Andrew Dominick’s third, disastrously drab feature film.
Based on George V. Higgins’ legendary novel Cogan’s Trade, the film’s center narrative is – contrary to the rest of the movie – stripped down to the raw bone. After a Mob-run-and-protected poker game is hit up by two crooked low lives, Jackie Cogan (Brad Pitt) is brought in to rectify the situation.
Updating Higgins’ novel (which was originally set in Boston circa 1974), Killing Them Softly is placed in the barren, depression-riddled city of New Orleans, post-Katrina, 2008. Dominick makes sure to hammer the setting in – caused by (as he sees it) politicians. Laced with a bevy of speeches from John McCain and Barack Obama, the film jabs away at Washington and American ideals.
The nasty political rhetoric is on the outskirts of this overall nasty and uninteresting story. Jackie goes after the pair of punks, Russell (Ben Mendelsohn) and Frankie (Scoot McNairy). When Cogan has trouble finishing his assignment (killing them both), he calls for big time New York City hit man Mickey (James Gandolfini).
Reading my minuscule plot synopsis over I realized I’ve missed represented this film: Killing Them Softly is more lethargic and inert than my aforementioned description.
That’s not to say there isn’t something captivating in this mess. Killing Them Softly has about four or five genuinely riveting set pieces wasted by a prolonged duration. Unfortunately, every single extended sequence in this movie could’ve been edited by about two minutes. Few pictures bring attention to its length – particularly in the middle of a scene– like this one.
Once one block falls apart, the rest begin to follow. To make a bad film worse, Dominick’s stern examination of American economics is exacerbated by its wholly incoherent approach. Beyond not ever fully establishing a thesis, Killing Them Softly keeps throwing political jabs by integrating multitudes of clips and voiceovers of Obama and McCain declaring their campaign for presidency, mapping out their roads for the future, and discussing the current state of affairs in this nation.
None of the film’s right hook, left hook, uppercut punches land with any sort of substance. Fusing a voiceover of Barack Obama during a brutal death sequence doesn’t make your film thought provoking or intelligent; just downright silly.
Once the film finally concluded after 97-minutes of muddled storytelling, I begun to wonder whom exactly is this film for? Thinking back on Pitt’s rousing outro monologue, it became clear. Killing Them Softly is a film for those who feed off negativity. It’s for the small amount of Americans who live to get riled up over absolutely nothing. It’s for those few and far between citizens who are all for pointing out the problem, but are nowhere to be found when asked for solutions.
Killing Them Softly is not only a cynical film, for cynical people, it’s a vacuous, incongruous, trite, and offensive contribution to the art form.
My review of Killing them Softly on Examiner.