Friday, April 26, 2013
JohnnyTwoToes finds this neo-crime noir interesting but disjointed!
Killing Them Softly is a strange crime film that is most notable for the presence of Brad Pitt, a vastly under rated actor whose seems to be dismissed for his acting because of his good looks. I will wager Brad Pitt (good looks aside) can do just about any genre of film including horror. Even as good as Robert DeNiro is at enveloping himself into a character, DeNiro cannot do horror as he poorly showed in Hide and Seek (2005). It was perhaps the one time I saw Robert DeNiro out of place.
In Killing Them Softly, Pitt plays Jackie Cogan, an elite mob enforcer who is called to a run after the local mob groups have all been robbed at their card games. Cogan arrives and begins to piece together the goings on in this little po-dunk town. Since we know who does the robbing, there is not much mystery as to what Cogan will find out. As expected, it does not take Cogan long to figure out what justice to dispense and to whom. Cogan is briefed by the local mob lawyer (a nonchalant Richard Jenkins) and their conversations are the best things in this film. They seem to know what needs to be done but, even in mob land there is method to their madness and so rules and protocol must be followed.
Enter Mickey (James Gandolfini). Mickey is a hard living, brutal, has-been enforcer who still works when he needs to; in between getting popped by the local authorities and doing jail time. He arrives in town to take care of one of the bozos but immediately becomes intoxicated and exhausted by the local ladies of the night. He is apparently going through a nasty divorce, is violating his parole and is close to a nervous breakdown. Put a gun in his hand, and you will have anarchy. Why they call him is anybodies guess.
Killing Them Softly is a nice attempt at neo-crime noir and Pitt does extremely well as Cogan; a quiet observer of people. "These guys can't do nothin' quietly. They can't keep their big mouths shut. That's where I come in. I like killing them softly. It gets the job done," Cogan laments to lawyer Driver (Jenkins). The problem I had with Killing Them Softly is that nothing seems left to the imagination. Everything is explained, and I did not need this to be explained.
There is a running gag throughout this film as former President Bush and President Obama are heard in audio clips talking about the US banking crisis. These are played as we see shots of the dumpy town on skid row. Apparently things are tough all over, even for the crooks.
Killing The Softly was written and directed by Andrew Dominik who worked with Pitt on The Assassination Of The Outlaw Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford ("The Outlaw" was later dropped by the studio because the damn title was long enough at it was). It was a better film and again featured an Oscar caliber performance by Pitt. Dominik wrote the screenplay for Killing Them Softly from the George V. Higgins novel "Cogan's Trade") and either the book or the screenplay could have used some more detail on characters and less on the daily machinations of the mob. I mean, really, what was the point of Mickey's character. It's a distraction that could have been written differently or just done away with all together.
Still, Killing Them Softly is not a total waste of time. It has a cool vibe to it and the acting is first rate including those of Ray Liotta and Scoot McNairy. This is a so-so film that I was really hoping would have been great. It's short so at a run time of about 96 minutes you won't have to sit too long to get to the predictable end of a film that you see coming.