Killing Them Softly – Movie Review
Posted by FATEMA H.KAGALWALA on October 7, 2012 | No Comments
PRODUCER – Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Steve Schwartz, Paula Mae Schwartz, Anthony Katagas
DIRECTOR – Andrew Dominik
WRITER – Andrew Dominik (Screenplay) Based on “Cogan’s Trade” by George V. Higgins
CAST – Brad Pitt, Scoot McNairy, Ben Mendelsohn, Richard Jenkins, James Gandolfini, Ray Liotta, Sam Shepard
Based on a novel “Cogan’s Trade” by George V. Higgins, ‘Killing Them Softly’ is a two-edged narrative. On the face of it, it is a cool story of the shenanigans of the underworld. But beneath the surface it implies the economic imperils of recessionist America that supposedly helps gambling businesses flourish.
The story revolves around Jackie Cogan (Brad Pitt), a professional killer investigating a heist at a poker game. But it is much later in the film that Cogan appears. First appear the down-on-luck pawns that are hired to pull of the heist. And then the robbery itself, which is as taut as stretched rubber and brilliant in its effective simplicity. Soon we know the stakes are high and there is a huge corporate behind the gambling business and Cogan is hired to seek and kill those behind the robbery.
What follows is no action-packed expose of a gangster flick. Yet, the gritty gore and hard-edged dryness subsumes the narrative throughout its long-drawn out conversations. And conversations are what the film is made of. There are deals being struck and negotiations galore and more and when the time comes to kill, it is quick.
The film harks back to the older times of cinema where gangster films were noir-ish in their personality. Colours are muted and frames signify danger and suspense by simple, intuitive framing. 70’s music plays out frequently, mostly a lady singing of her love never dulling the sense of danger around the corner, in fact only heightening it.
The thrust of the film however, is not in this danger. It is in the expose of this threat. It is not physical violence that the America of today is caught in, it is the economic mess and the ‘business’ it has become that seems to be the central theme of the film. Abundantly, we watch TV speeches and posters of Senator Obama, McCain and Bush freely talking of the values of the very American values of liberty and prosperity. But the film holds all of that under a cynical view, spewed in Pitt’s climactic speech. As a comment, it is topical but it ends up doing far little than it sets out to do.
Pitt as the no-nonsense mercenary who prefers killing people from a distance is in his element here. We last saw him almost hamming it up in Moneyball but here he keeps his performance low key, letting control and conversation do the talking. But far more captivating are Scoot Mcnairy and Ben Mendelsohn as the bums, robbers and ultimate pawns in the game.
Killing Them Softly is a tight and searing film yet it is slow and turgid, making it very difficult to wade through the unending conversations to get to the point. Also when the point comes it unfortunately is a less of a reward for the patience than we’d like it to be.