I live in America. In America, you are on your own. America’s not a country. It’s just a business. Now pay me my fucking money.
– Brad Pitt’s character Jackie Cogan at the end of Killing Them Softly
Crime film Killing Them Softly is bloody, no question about it.
Blood splatters over the car windows as multiple bullets home in on a driver at a traffic light, blood turns the ground red, blood turns a man’s back red and blood leaves an innocent man’s face bloodied through massive beating inflicted by two manic thugs on a dark, rainy night.
Alas, the film is also a bloody yawn, just not worth your time!
Based on the book Cogan’s Trade by George V. Higgins, Killing Them Softly is co-produced by Brad Pitt.
I went in with high expectations based on the cast and snippets I’d read about the film.
For a crime film featuring the likes of Brad Pitt and James ‘Tony Soprano‘ Gandolfini Killing Them Softly moves at a languid pace.
There’s far too much blah blah blah, but not of the very engaging, intelligent kind to tickle your brain cells.
Besides the slow pace, the movie also suffers from other problems.
First, none of the bad characters really stand out and grab your attention.
Not the crazy ‘Australian’ dopehead Russell (Ben Mendelsohn).
Not Frankie (Scoot McNairy).
Not the poker room manager Martie (Ray Liotta).
Not the ‘New York’ hit-man Mickey (James Gandolfini).
Not the hired hit-man Jackie (Brad Pitt).
Not the driver (Richard Jenkins).
All of them start off as interesting characters but the screenplay by director Andrew Dominik quickly amputates whatever brings life to these warped characters.
Hell, even the killer Jackie, played by Brad Pitt, is not in the least bit menacing not even when he tries to be, like in the bar scene with Frankie!
Second, the entire story is ho-hum and starts off with the robbing of an illegal, mob-run gambling den by two small-time criminals Russell and Frankie.
The mob then brings in a hit man Jackie (Brad Pitt) to get those two punks. Jackie, in turn, brings in Mickey from New York to help him on the hits.
Supposedly set in Boston and filmed in New Orleans, the photography of the run-down buildings and abandoned homes is hardly the kind to leave you wide-eyed.
A crime film has got to have one of two things – endless, thrilling, fast-paced action or be a cerebral, intelligent film with great dialogs and a riveting story helmed by fine actors.
The acting part is never an issue in Killing Them Softly but everything else is, oh, so insipid that I wondered why the hell I was still sitting in the hall.
There are some humorous touches here and there like when the ‘Driver’ derisively refers to the Mob bosses as having developed a squeamish corporate mentality. But they are few and far between.
The movie is set against the backdrop of the 2008 Presidential elections and the financial meltdown of Wall Street with frequent television or radio soundbites of Obama, McCain and George Bush playing in the background.
Alas, little of the political stuff or financial meltdown is in any way integrated into the main theme of the movie except at the end when Jackie cynically looks at the TV set and mocks Obama’s message of hope, one-people and we can.
In America, hope is all for the schmucks!