Movie Review for Killing Them Softly

Killing Them Softly   

Starring: Brad Pitt, James Gandolfini, Ray Liotta, Richard Jenkins, Scoot McNairy, Ben Mendelsohn, Sam Sheppard


Directed by Andrew Dominik


Rated: R

Run Time: 97 mins

Genre: Crime/ Drama


Opens November 30th


By Lisa Minzey of The Reel


After last week’s film release overload, the week is a tad light on the new releases. This week the 2012 Cannes Film Festival Palme d’Or nominated film, Killing Them Softly opens in theaters nationwide. Based on the novel “Cogan’s Trade” by George V. Higgins, Director Andrew Dominik (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford), Brad Pitt’s production company Plan B and The Weinstein Company assembled a top-notch group of actors for this crime thriller.

What happens when stupid people do exceedingly Incredulous acts of stupidity?  The smart or “wise guys” step in to clean up the mess. That’s what happened when 3 small time crooks decide to take on the mob by robbing a Mob protected card game run by Markie Trattman (Ray Liotta). They try to set Markie up by making it look like he was robbing his own card game to steal the cash of the high roller gamblers. Markie is a bit of a prankster, which he pulled this trick once before, but “Fool me once shame on you. Fool me twice shame on me” goes a long way with this crowd.  The other players were not about to be duped again, so taking matters into their own hands, they target Markie. In the meantime, balance needed to be restored to the crime community, so Driver (Richard Jenkins) calls in an “enforcer” of order, Jackie (Brad Pitt).

Jackie,  familiar with the on goings of the circuit knows he needs assistance to complete the job that normally his fellow hit man Dillion (Sam Shppard) would have taken on. Because Jackie has been in contact with someone who knows the target, another wet work guy is brought in to complete the job, Mickey (James Gandolfini).

It becomes glaringly clear that Mickey is not in the right state of mind nor body to take on this job, so it now falls down on Jackie to clean up the entire mess before it gets worse.

Have you ever, after watching a film, walk out of a theater wondering why a star was drawn to a certain project? Is if for the money?  A great part or a great storyline?  Or maybe perhaps it is to work with someone they have wanted to work with for a long time?  Whatever the reason maybe, it befuddles me to see strong actors such as Brad Pitt, James Gandolfini, Sam Sheppard and even Ray Liotta be reduced from the strong presence they had in past roles playing gangsters or criminals to the mess that was displayed in Killing Them Softly.  For those expecting an exciting crime ridden film that you would expect from a cast such as this, I’m not sure this would live up to the expectations that films such as Snatch, Goodfellas or even a television show such as The Sopranos.

I’m not sure what went awry along the way in production, but the Big Political/ Corporate Criminals vs. the Smaller Crime circuit, whining about their cut of the business accentuated with the overlay of news clips and sound bites from the 2008 election/ economic Chernobyl-esq meltdown did nothing to help the story.  The film is heavily focused on the dialogue, which for a film about gangsters and crime is unusual. With the combination of the heavy dialogue, slow pacing of the film and the constant topic-jumping between characters not seen or have large parts, if the viewer is not paying attention may get confused and lost.  One of the bright points of the film was during a few of the hit scenes with Jackie. There is a particular slow motion sequence that is done well and breaks up the monotony between storylines. The film takes a while to get interesting which could have been cut by 20 minutes and still accomplished the point of the story. This film was trying to be clever and intellectually stimulating, but should have focused more on the entertainment value.  You be the judge when “Killing Them Softly” opens in theaters nationwide starting Friday November 30, 2012.