Premise: In a title that’s essentially the opposite style of murder from Die Hard, Killing Them Softly is at its most basic a story of a robbery and retaliation. However it doesn’t take much effort after that to notice that the movie is actually a satire of American business.
-It’s more of a dark comedy than a mobster film. At times it even felt like a lost Coen Bros movie. But that was only in spurts.
-I loved the business aspects of the criminal organization. Brad Pitt’s character has to report to a middle man (Richard Jenkins) who speaks for the head of the organization, but it’s still very corporate and they have almost human resource issues on how to handle criminal activity. It’s all very funny and satirical and awesome.
-Had a pretty good cast with Brad Pitt and Ray Liotta as the heavy hitters, and some good support from the likes of Richard Jenkins, James Gandolfini and the two guys who played the sweaty burglars. On a side note: At whatever age Ray Liotta is at right now, he looks bloated and splotchy and looks like he’s about to die of some horrible illness at any given minute.
-It has a very simple plot, and it drives forward throughout the entire film. It dances around in the middle a little bit, but mainly has a good flow.
-Some truly great scenes of tension throughout the film.
-Good soundtrack. They did stuff like use The Velvet Underground’s “Heroin” during the heroin scene, but only use the instrumental part, so as not to be entirely cliche. Nice touches for people who are familiar with the songs, probably nothing special to someone who’s not.
-The cinematography is absolutely amazing when it wants to be. Particularly the scenes of terrible stuff happening to Ray Liotta. The editing is awesome is these scenes as well. In fact, the scene where Ray Liotta gets “a talking to” is incredibly put together and beautifully shot; even if it was uncomfortably violent.
-When the cinematography isn’t amazing, it’s either bland or overdone for the sake of being stylish. Two perfect examples of both of those things; there are a bunch of shots of Brad Pitt smoking cigarettes in profile, and the heroin scene was obnoxiously unnecessary in its flashiness.
-Brad Pitt didn’t show his acting chops off too much in this one. He plays a cool, handsome guy who smokes. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the actual Brad Pitt is a cool, handsome guy who smokes.
-The James Gandolfini subplot was interesting, but when it was resolved it was basically pointless. I guess it was to show how the business is changing, or how the business doesn’t matter anymore. The film was actually pretty short, so it wasn’t that big of a deal I suppose… But in a longer movie I would have been more adamant about having that side story cut.
-The film opens with a speech from Obama being cut to the burglar guy walking in an abandoned parking lot. Throughout the film they keep playing speeches from Obama and McCain in the background (it takes place during the 2008 election). And the very last scene of the film has Brad Pitt directly referencing Obama’s victory speech, giving an almost to-the-camera social commentary on America. I’m saying the subtext of the film wasn’t very subtle. At all.
Final Thoughts: Killing Them Softly is kind of like last year’s Drive in the sense that it’s a pretty good film that I can’t even really recommend to a lot of people who would normally like this genre of movie. But there haven’t been that many great, smaller films getting released this winter; and this movie is a (relatively) nice bright spot.
8 out of 10