Killing Them Softly (2012) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Killing Them Softly (2012)

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Killing Them Softly (2012)

I liked the last couple of lines, so I'll give the movie that. It finally prevents a triple zero batting average.

Killing Them Softly is a crime picture, but a schizophrenic deal that wants to ape the 1970's cool while adding in British crime comedy with some unbelievably painful political commentary to dreadful results. It's a mess of messes, a muddle of ambition and plain goofiness that runs off the rails like some awful metaphor I couldn't construct properly.

So goddamn dumb.

The plot's put in motion by an idiot named Frankie (Scoot MacNairy)-- a man on the lowest of the lowest rungs of society who sees quick robberies the only way for him to get by. His contact, Turtle, gets him set up with the possibility of robbing a game that the mob runs. Since the man who runs it, Markie (Ray Liotta), has hit his own game before, Turtle figures the mob will go after him.

Well, that would be all well and good if it weren't for Frankie's cohort, Russell (Ben Mendelsohn), being an even bigger idiot. He spends his split on smack and decides to brag about the hit to one of the mafia's hitmen.

And that's when Jackie (Brad Pitt) enters with his rockabilly hairdo and Johnny Cash on the radio (In case you're unaware, Johnny Cash is goth music for people who are too self conscious to think of themselves as goth). Jackie has a plan to deal with all of the men one by one, and that includes bringing in his pal Mickey (James Gandolfini) to help out.

I'm an old white man who craves loyalty but refuses to give it. Just another piece of shit on the shit tableau.

But Mickey is having a crisis, where he finds that loyalty and love have escaped him. Existential crisises are par for the course throughout the film, and rather than engaging character drama we instead receive the type of long, dreary monologues that high school stage directors would turn their nose up at. It's not that they're clumsy, but they reveal nothing but a character who is drunk and boring.

Director Andrew Dominik gives the movie a Guy Ritchie knockoff vibe, but I don't think that's on purpose. He drenches the movie in rain and harsh sunlight, and while he certainly makes the ugliness of poverty ugly, he throws so many directorial tricks in that the film feels hammy and self aware. It's hard to take a painting of fruit someone made seriously because everyone does that with a few personal touches added; you get the same feeling here.

The political undercurrent of the film (it's so on the nose that calling it subtext would offend every person who's taken a Lit class) sets the move at the end of the 2008 election and during the Financial Crisis we all remember so fondly. Everyone is tuned into CNN just in time for some heavily re-contextualized saying to emphasize how the War on Terror had created a culture of fear and poverty that'd turned the country in upon itself.

Thanks, I know. I was there.


The last few lines of the picture have Brad Pitt finally calling this out in a monologue that isn't wholly tone deaf. And then we cut to black; that's ending it on a high note.

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Posted by Danny

Comments (5) Trackbacks (0)
  1. Johnny Cash is actually punk music, if Pandora is any thing to go by. And I liked Guy Rtichie’s first couple of crime-comedies, so maybe I’ll like this. But given your review, I think I’ll wait until Netflix.

  2. “like some awful metaphor I couldn’t construct properly” is my new favorite meta saying.

  3. Goth music.

    More goth music.

    Another exemplary example of goth music.

    Lookit all that black mascara.

    So…is it for people too self-conscious to think themselves as goth or is it really that goth is too class-biased to think of themselves as country? Either way, as a huge Johnny Cash fan and respectful admirer of goth music, “In case you’re unaware, Johnny Cash is goth music for people who are too self conscious to think of themselves as goth” doesn’t make a lick of sense.

    Good review otherwise, but like I messaged to you I still don’t understand what you’re going for there.

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