Killing Them Softly
(2012 – Director: Andrew Dominik Cast: Brad Pitt, Scoot McNairy)
Killing Them Softly paints a nice picture, but fails to paint a nice film.
Andrew Dominik once again directs Brad Pitt after he graced us with his beautiful The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. But this time he takes a giant step sideways with genre, style, and writing. What I loved about Dominik’s direction in Jesse James is his patience, the open space, and the willingness to sit on a shot and let it sink in. Killing hits you right away that this is going to be a dialogue heavy film, making it a familiar Mob movie.
Killing starts out with two idiots who rob a Mob-run poker game. Enter Brad Pitt. He’s hired as a hitman to track the robbers. And that’s pretty much it. Killing isn’t one for much character development. It explores these characters slightly, but nothing in the sense that makes me relate to them or sympathize with them. The most likeable character is Pitt’s, but he hardly seems like he’s there half the time.
There is supposed to be an underlying political theme throughout the film with glimpses of the 2008 election going on in the background. We hear Bush, McCain, and Obama sound bites promising a bright future as the country starts an economic collapse. Some of that is interesting, some of it a bit heavy handed. Killing gives an almost exact opposite view of America as both candidates are promising. It’s cold, meaningless, brutal, and has no sense of community. Killing accomplishes all of those things. But where does this leave the average viewer? Disgusted. There’s absolutely no redeeming qualities about this movie. No one to engage with or cheer for. It completely shuts out the audience. James Gandolfini’s character is the perfect example of someone who I was absolutely disgusted by and frankly didn’t care what happened to him.
Dominik also gives us a movie that is almost completely full of two person dialogue scenes. It gets boring, fast, and makes it seem like they shot this movie in 10 days. With a $15 Mil. budget you would expect more. Most people are referencing characters we never see or care about. The little bit of action isn’t consistent on any basis. One shooting scene is so exaggerated and elongated it becomes comical and belongs better in Sin City, or 300.
So why the 2 1/2 star rating? Simply put, the actors in this film are great, and despite the bad story, the direction and cinematography are fantastic. It just goes to show you that when you don’t allow an audience to connect with any thing or any one, it overpowers any choice a director can make.