Saturday, December 1, 2012

Killing Them Softly: Movie Review


Disguising a brilliant take on the American economy with a convoluted gangster plot.
Set after the 2008 presidential election between John McCain’s “Country first” and Barack Obama’s “Change we can believe in” platforms, “Killing Them Softly” is about living the American dream, the downfall of the American economy, and the difference between a country and a business. But you would be forgiven if you didn’t find that storyline very evident. Those are just ideas not plot lines. 2012

Directed by: Andrew Dominik

Screenplay by: Andrew Dominik

Starring: Brad Pitt, and Scoot McNairy

Brad Pitt as Jackie Cogan in KILLING THEM SOFTLY.
Photo: Melinda Sue Gordon.
Knowing that the general public doesn’t care much for history lessons or lectures, the filmmakers disguised their film as a crime drama. One where somewhat inept (but still alive) wannabe-gangsters infiltrate rival mobs, rob underground poker games, or kill fellow low-lifes because their boss asks them to, or they think it will impress their boss. I always get lost in gangster related crime dramas, but especially in this one since there wasn’t really a coherent or meaningful plot. The plot is just a necessary device to get across their important concept of selfishness, greed and the economy.

One of the low-scale gangsters supposed to do the dirty work, but is not yet indifferent to death, blood and begging, is Frankie (Scoot McNairy). He does realize that he’s too far in over his head but doesn’t really know how to get out. A much higher-up boss in the criminal world, Jackie (Brad Pitt), is supposed to fix the mess that Frankie and his fellow amateurs have created. He has gotten a little philosophical in his old age – not helped by the fact that his former boss (James Gandolfini) has turned to alcohol and prostitutes in his old age.

Scoot McNairy as Frankie in KILLING THEM SOFTLY.
Photo: Melinda Sue Gordon.
Although I could barely follow his story, McNairy made me care for his life-and-death situation. When Pitt approaches him in the bar, his fear, his knowledge of doing the right thing, and his desire to run are all on his face, and even worse for him is that all options likely lead to the same outcome.

As I said the film is just a platform for presenting ideas and Pitt’s character is in a current philosophical stance, so “Killing Them Softly” ends the movie the only way they could with Brad Pitt delivering one of the best monologues ever uttered on film. He compares Barack Obama to Thomas Jefferson, and the country of America to a money-first business. It’s cynical and it’s right.