Killing Them Softly
“Killing Them Softly” is an average crime thriller, with above average cinematography, a below average “message” and an overly inflated sense of self-importance. For those who like their messages applied with a sledgehammer bluntly and repeatedly this might be the movie for you.
Brad Pitt’s name may be above the title, but he’s a supporting character here in the tale of two small time hoods who knock over a mob card game in New Orleans. Pitt is the hit-man sent to track em down. Gone are the days of the lone wolf. Now even the criminals have gone corporate. In the old days Pitt would merely be dispatched to make problems go away with no fuss. Now the crime bosses rule by committee and need to be cajoled into taking any steps at all.
Emerging from a standard issue (for this type of picture anyway) classic car- Pitt looks like he could keep looking cool on the surface of the sun. He is easily the most watchable thing on screen, but the trouble is we don’t see nearly enough of him. And we don’t know much about him either. James Gandolfini and Richard Jenkins give strong performances too but they have precious little screen time.
Instead we spend far too much time with Scoot McNairy and Ben Mendelsohn , the two low life mopes who pull off the job. They’re a whiney lot looking for an easy score and not terribly interesting. The only thing less interesting is the filmmakers preoccupation with an attempt at political commentary. The events of the 2008 collapse of the financial markets and the presidential election are loudly interwoven into the events of the film through blaring speeches that seem to be everywhere they go. It’s on every television, and every radio to make it clear to the meanest intelligence that something is terribly wrong in America. The filmmakers don’t really have a whole lot to say beyond that- other than all politicians are the same. And it doesn’t get any deeper than that no matter how many times they repeat it. I’ve heard deeper philosophies in Spider-Man.
Killing Them Softly has confidence and competence to spare with some very cool looking mob hits. There’s enough in it to make a very good episode of television, or a really really good short film. But you can’t fill a feature on misplaced confidence and bravado alone.