Killing Them Softly (2012)

Killing Them Softly
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Strong violence, drug use, sexual references and coarse language

Director: Andrew Dominik
Actors: Brad Pitt, Richard Jenkins, James Gandolfini, Ray Liotta, Ben Mendelsohn, Scoot Mcnairy

A professional enforcer investigates the brazen robbery of a high-stakes mob poker game in this crime thriller directed by Andrew Dominik (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford). Livid over the fact that three low-level thieves have crashed the entire underworld economy, the mob's top brass hires Jackie Cogan (Brad Pitt) to see that the bandits pay for their crime. The closer Cogan gets to his target, however, the more he finds his mission complicated by an alcoholic hit man who's well past his prime, incompetent gangsters, and the playboy host of the inauspicious game.

DVD
Status: QuickPick
Run time: 97mins
Origin: UNITED STATES
Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Blood money
by Simon Miraudo,

Killing Them Softly is a caustic commentary on America’s chilly economic climate, and writer-director Andrew Dominik is unafraid of underlining that point repeatedly throughout his movie’s taut 97-minute runtime. The point is made, and then it’s made, and then it’s made again. But it builds to a brilliantly cutting monologue from mob enforcer Jackie Cogan, played by Brad Pitt, who spits out the final bit of vitriol from the picture’s poisonous container, and produces a legitimate contender for the all-time great film quotes. I won’t spoil those closing words here. Maybe in a few decades' time it will replace Gordon Gecko’s refrain of “Greed is good,” and you’ll be glad to have not heard it uttered or seen it in writing before enjoying it tumble out of Pitt’s lips. On car radios and TVs ev...

Killing Them Softly is a caustic commentary on America’s chilly economic climate, and writer-director Andrew Dominik is unafraid of underlining that point repeatedly throughout his movie’s taut 97-minute runtime. The point is made, and then it’s made, and then it’s made again. But it builds to a brilliantly cutting monologue from mob enforcer Jackie Cogan, played by Brad Pitt, who spits out the final bit of vitriol from the picture’s poisonous container, and produces a legitimate contender for the all-time great film quotes. I won’t spoil those closing words here. Maybe in a few decades' time it will replace Gordon Gecko’s refrain of “Greed is good,” and you’ll be glad to have not heard it uttered or seen it in writing before enjoying it tumble out of Pitt’s lips.

On car radios and TVs everywhere, lame duck George W. Bush and President-elect Barack Obama are trying to keep their nation from exploding into panic. Set in the days following the 2008 election, this is not so much an allegory of the United States' financial collapse as it is a companion tale to highlight how muddled and messed up that whole kerfuffle really is. It’s also a crime thriller that makes the nihilistic No Country for Old Men seem positively chirpy. Jackie Cogan will murder anyone for the right price, and though he might feel cut-up about offing certain friendly acquaintances, a fair pay packet will quiet his guilt. He likes to kill softly, but he charges indiscriminately, and since he gets the job done every time out, he expects to be paid accordingly. It’s a blisteringly simple equation, and frankly, those handling the coffers in the U.S. could learn a lesson or two from his blunt dealings.

In a novel twist to the genre, Jackie Cogan is not on the run or seeking revenge of a personal nature. He’s called in to find the guys responsible for hitting a high stakes card game and making away with the winnings. Jackie informs his client, an out-of-his-depth counselor (Richard Jenkins) representing the robbed parties, that he’ll have to first take out the game's host. That’d be Markie Trattman (Ray Liotta), who once orchestrated a fake heist on his own operation to make a quick buck. Regardless of whether or not he’s guilty of the crime this time around, the gamblers have lost faith in him and refuse to return to the tables. Nobody’s making any money, and there'll be no progress until he’s been formally deposed. James Gandolfini turns up as a New York contractor fallen on hard times who accepts a discounted rate to whack Trattman for Jackie. The final episode of Gandolfini’s The Sopranos was called Made in America, and that feels like an apt alternate title for this (it's already undergone one name-change, based as it is on George V. Higgins' 1974 novel Cogan's Trade).

Back to the real culprits. The two thieves are naïve ex-con Frankie (Scoot McNairy) and sweaty Australian animal Russell (Ben Mendelsohn). They know Markie will take the fall due to his past indiscretions, and live in a blissful bubble of ignorance until Jackie inevitably winds up on their tail. Frankie only wanted a nice new (old) car and a haircut. Russell, however, tries to double his loot by investing in some smack and becoming a low-level drug dealer. And in this universe, an enterprising spirit will cause fate to smile upon you, no matter how nefarious and despicable a person you might be. This feels like an appropriate juncture to state that every actor mentioned thus far is fabulous in their parts.

After detouring with his sublime elegy The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Dominik finishes what he started with the darkly comic Aussie gangster flick Chopper. Spending the first third with Frankie and Russell as they plot their burglary and compare sexual conquests with graphic, depraved, freakishly witty detail feels like being transported back to Dominik's debut feature. He always had style, even when the purse strings were significantly tighter. Here, with a significantly bigger budget, he’s merely allowed to convey his cinematic talents with greater refinery. A slow-motion assassination is the technical money shot, though the nail-biting robbery is a mighty feat of camera movement and composition.

Brad Pitt puts down the nibbles for once and moves like a snake, or some sort of irresistible cloud of cool and callousness. He says he likes to kill his targets “softly,” so that he and they are spared the shame of tears, begging, and even self-soiling. Though he takes their lives from afar and without fanfare, “softly” feels like a generous description of how he works; double-triple-quadruple tapping the corpses to ensure that they stay dead. Hey, Jackie's getting paid good money to do this job, and he’ll be damned if he turns in subpar work. As a producer and star, Pitt must feel the same.

4.5/5

Check out Simon’s other reviews here.

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Member Reviews (48)

David W
says
Very good!!!!!!
Posted Saturday, 22 March 2014 See my other reviews
worst Brad Pitt movie I have ever seen, thought it would get better but it didn't
Posted Friday, 6 December 2013 See my other reviews
Not great
Posted Monday, 2 December 2013 See my other reviews
The worst Brad Pitt movie I have ever watched....
Posted Monday, 4 November 2013 See my other reviews
To slow story line confusing
Posted Thursday, 3 October 2013 See my other reviews
Lee
says
I regretted getting this movie two minutes in but my cue was low and what do you do. I hated it but we saw it though hoping it would get better........ it didn't. Ben was good (in a creepy, dirty, druggie, loser) way though.
Posted Tuesday, 24 September 2013 See my other reviews
Pretty average. Stellar cast but didn't hit the mark
Posted Saturday, 14 September 2013 See my other reviews
just awful
Posted Wednesday, 4 September 2013 See my other reviews
SS
says
It could have been interesting, the execution of the film is slow confusing and to be honest just woeful.
Posted Friday, 30 August 2013 See my other reviews
peter d d
says
awful
Posted Tuesday, 27 August 2013 See my other reviews
Alasdair
says
Well I think this is a good film. Some people criticise the violence and yes it is violent. But the dialogue is interesting, the story is thin but intriguing. The acting is also good, and the ambivalence of the characters towards the crimes they are required to commit is refreshing. Maybe as it comes from left field it throws a lot of viewers? It is certainly not conventional, and that is what makes it very watchable.
Posted Monday, 19 August 2013 See my other reviews
CL-D
says
It's worth 3 stars alone just for the final monologue from Brad Pitt. Never have I seen such a split in opinions, which, to me, usually means it is a great movie. Right again. I would have thought this may become a classic but not judging by most of the comments below. It's dark, funny and the violent scenes are accompanied by the strangest choice of music. Very realistic, different, intelligent and well acted by all. Give it space and persevere.
Posted Tuesday, 30 July 2013 See my other reviews
aweful - just nothing else to be said!
Posted Sunday, 21 July 2013 See my other reviews
Shaughan
says
Too much disgusting, unnecessary talk and not enough action. Didn't get half way.
Posted Sunday, 21 July 2013 See my other reviews
decent movie, I no expect to be like how it is, I think scary, that this movie is showing how it is in real life of underworld, contract killer, to imagine that a man can do it, for money, to kill a another man, I would shake very much, if someone has contract over my head, because no-one can know where killer can strike from, but movie is a bit boring.
Posted Tuesday, 16 July 2013 See my other reviews
Derek
says
Not exactly what I was expecting and a bit too slow in places but an interesting film. Don't go in expecting guns blazing and you'll enjoy it a lot more.
Posted Saturday, 13 July 2013 See my other reviews
mintiegirl
says
Modern film noir. Didnt mind this, but lack that something that would push it over the edge.
Posted Wednesday, 10 July 2013 See my other reviews
[pfurball
says
This was a different sort of assassination movie. Very slow and weird to watch.
Posted Saturday, 6 July 2013 See my other reviews
Cammo
says
Wow, what a let down. This was really dull and boring. Perhaps it is too short, at just 90 minutes, Add another hour, some action, some real character development and it would have been gold. The acting is great, the dialogue good, but the plot really lets it down. It becomes boring and was so predictable. There are no twists, no sub-plots, no mystery, nothing. Just boring. Very strange that Pitt would choose such a movie to act in, but I guess every actor has their duds.
Posted Saturday, 29 June 2013 See my other reviews
Adam
says
Very good Gangster movie. A bit graphic in parts but a great story well acted.
Posted Tuesday, 18 June 2013 See my other reviews
Worst movie I've seen for years, could even watch it to the end. Script and direction all over the place and never interesting or original.
Posted Sunday, 16 June 2013 See my other reviews
One of the worst budget movies I've seen in a long time. Switched it off we thought it was that bad
Posted Friday, 14 June 2013 See my other reviews
pretty lame vehicle for Brad Pitt to look hardcore
Posted Monday, 10 June 2013 See my other reviews
Kazza
says
If into doco type movies, then its great, but with my span of attention in detail too detailed and low speaking to catch everything that was said, would need to watch two to three times to get the gab. No I don't apparently need a hearing aid, tested. Its these movies made for such luxury surround systems...otherwise worth a watch
Posted Wednesday, 5 June 2013 See my other reviews
boring...........should have turned it off
Posted Tuesday, 7 May 2013 See my other reviews
Paul
says
I could have just listened to this with my eyes closed and not missed anything because it's pretty much just a lot of conversations strung together. A socio-political commentary wrapped in a gangster movie where the actors must have been paid per F-word. I like Brad Pitt but this movie just didn't interest me.
Posted Tuesday, 7 May 2013 See my other reviews
This movie was so boring I had to stop watching, I lasted half an hour. Don't know what Brad Pitt was thinking. Perhaps a good movie if you're into this type of film.
Posted Thursday, 2 May 2013 See my other reviews
very cool
Posted Tuesday, 30 April 2013 See my other reviews
Maggie
says
This was so slow, we didn't bother to finish watching it - a terrible movie.
Posted Monday, 29 April 2013 See my other reviews
kimbo
says
Here we go again...Another one of those well casted/all star cast that did not pull through as you would expect! The big bad wolf is back! No, not Brad Pitt or Ray Liotta but the feared New Jersey mob boss, Tony Soprano. James Gandolfini's addition was the cherry on top. Although this was well acted - it was poorly written. A story about a bad ass guy (Pitt) with no fear goes up against NO competition. Where is the excitement in that? Where did the struggle to win this game, go? Besides bullets flying in slow motion and Pitt's strong monologue at the end worth saluting...this movie literally had me say "ehh". Not TOO terrible but at the same time, let' re-write this thing and take it from the top. Hey David Chase!! Can you help these guys out a little?
Posted Wednesday, 17 April 2013 See my other reviews
jc
says
Wow - the death of the American Dream - what an amazing movie. This is not a gangster movie - those who thought it was slow or boring had borrowed it for the wrong reason. It is more like a documentary on an African tribe - it is 'lift the lid and see what's inside'. Brilliant dialogue, brilliant storyline, brilliant acting - the addition of the radio broadcasts was genius, I especially loved the music and will play it again just to hear that. Ben Mendelsohn did a fantastic job - it's so hard to play a drunk or druggie and he was more than convincing. This movie will collect a following, I'm sure. Ten out of five stars.
Posted Friday, 12 April 2013 See my other reviews
garrett
says
Slow paced story, with some brutal scenes, may not appeal to many, with a good cast. Modern American economy seen thru gangsters eyes
Posted Friday, 12 April 2013 See my other reviews
Not exactly an uplifting experience. A very dark view of modern America. A famous cast, fairly good acting (Ben Mendelson was slightly off), tried hard to be stylistic but didn't impress me that much.
Posted Friday, 5 April 2013 See my other reviews
Adaucey
says
A bit too soft!
Posted Thursday, 4 April 2013 See my other reviews
What a c**p movie! Don't bother with it.
Posted Tuesday, 2 April 2013 See my other reviews
trash
Posted Friday, 29 March 2013 See my other reviews
too slow
Posted Sunday, 24 March 2013 See my other reviews
Hayes
says
Not impressed by this. It put's me in mind of something else Brad has done recently and that was boring so much so I can't remember the name
Posted Saturday, 23 March 2013 See my other reviews
Johno
says
Not brilliant but then again not bad not and as violent as I expected, I have to agree with Harlowe does Gandolfini play anything other than a mobster.
Posted Thursday, 21 March 2013 See my other reviews
lisa_crook@hotmail.com
says
Shockingly boring and confusing. Wouldn't recommend it to anyone. Really bad movie. Can't say I liked any actor except Ben Mendelsohn - great portrayal. The rest are rubbish, but the storyline sucked too. No stars.
Posted Wednesday, 13 March 2013 See my other reviews
karen hedges
says
Considering the great actors in this movie, was really bad story line!
Posted Monday, 11 March 2013 See my other reviews
MLV
says
Great acting, interesting story. My housemate likes "boy movies" but he was bored and went to bed, I persevered for another hour, then turned it off. Too brutal and dark for me too.
Posted Tuesday, 5 March 2013 See my other reviews
Daisy
says
Too brutal and dark for us.
Posted Sunday, 3 March 2013 See my other reviews
darthdorian
says
It's almost a movie about what it was like to be a mafia hitman in a weak economy in America. (Doesn't pay what it use to.) Good acting. Almost too much character development, it is based on a book, so maybe it was true to the book. On a personal note and a gripe of mine. When will aussie characters in movies start talking like people and not what people think aussies talk like. Slang etc. (no one i know talks like that, maybe i don't know enough drugged up drunken fools.)
Posted Saturday, 23 February 2013 See my other reviews
Darren
says
A top written film with the juxtaposition of the American economy and politics with mobsters and modern ghost towns from the recession. Brad Pitts best role as Jackie Cogan, a heartless killer. Will become a classic! Great cinematography, but be ready for plenty on slow motion blood and guts!
Posted Friday, 22 February 2013 See my other reviews
Harlowe
says
A bit sick of seeing Gandolfino playing a mobster and wondering what else he can do. Brad Pitt is ok. I think his acting has improved - it's not all about the looks anymore. I prefer him in the less glamorous roles. Nothing outstanding here. The bashing scene with Ray Liotta is particularly brutal and very hard to watch. Ben Menedelsohn plays (and looks like) a complete wreck these days (on and off screen).
Posted Thursday, 21 February 2013 See my other reviews
Lissa
says
Brad does a good job. Interesting photography. Good cast playing unappetising loser characters with a penchant for long winded, meandering dialogues. It's like a snippet out of the life of a bunch of greasy, drunk or drugged out losers who are all doomed and who cares anyway. Well crafted but a bit of a downer. Coudn't call it dark humour myself as there wasn't anything remotely humourous.
Posted Thursday, 21 February 2013 See my other reviews
Cindy
says
A darkly comic satire on capitalism and the downfall of the American economy ( with it the much lauded American Dream) viewed through the prism of a group of small-time and rather dim-witted gangsters. A terrific cast make the most of a leisurely paced, but slyly engaging story.
Posted Monday, 18 February 2013 See my other reviews