Killing Them Softly

Wait a minute, “Killing Them Softly” is based on a novel? I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. I am not saying that is a bad thing, but I wish I would have known this fact before seeing the film.
I am listening to a Grantland Hollywood Prospectus podcast about it now and have at least two bookmarks online to read about the mob caper set in time with Barack Obama’s 2008 election and a financial crisis in the United States.
Writer and director Andrew Dominik uses audio and video of speeches by Obama and George W. Bush talking about the crisis throughout the film. Without reading the book I am not exactly sure what to make of the commentary, but basically the same political dilemmas happening in the United States are playing out in the world of hit men like Brad Pitt and James Gandolfini.
Pitt, as Jackie, is the enforcer sent to take out “kids” who step into business they shouldn’t be in. The “kids” Frankie (Scoot McNairy of “Argo”) and Russell (Ben Mendelsohn) hold up a card game run by Markie (Ray Liotta) thinking he will be blamed for it.
The same thing happened years back at one of Markie’s games and no one ever knew who did it. There was the theory that Markie set up a robbery of his own game thinking he would never get caught.
Honestly, I don’t know if I am spot on with the plot here, but I did get that much from the beginning of the film. Without throwing in any spoilers, it is best to just leave it at that.
While Jackie is the enforcer on the killing side of things Richard Jenkins, known as Driver, seems to be a kingpin on the business end.
Jackie calls in Mickey (James Gandolfini) when he gets a job tied into the robbed card game but it turns out he has to do it all on his own. Mickey is washed up and on probation and more interested in drinking and girls than doing the work.
When it comes down to it, Jackie is working like the rest of America and wants to be paid what he deserves.  It all comes full circle in his end monologue about capitalism with Driver in a bar as yet another Barack Obama snippet airs on the television.
Again I will say I didn’t quite get the purpose of the commentary – not ever thinking it was unnecessary – and  decided just to take it out of the equation when deciding whether I liked the film or not.
It didn’t really matter when I considered factors such as the acting, writing and visuals.
For me, Pitt made the film anyway in his performance as Jackie. As a fan of Jenkins, his role sweetened the deal for me. Overall the cast is well-rounded with Gandolfini, Vincent Curatola (also of”The Sopranos” fame as Johnny Sacramoni), and even Max Casella from none other than “Doogie Howser.”
I’ve also decided to follow Scoot McNairy more closely now. He’s got a long resume, but clearly is in the limelight more now having three big titles out this year. I know I’ll be seeing his next film, “Promised Land” by Gus Van Sant and of course starring Matt Damon.
Okay I think I’ve digressed enough now.
I’ve come to the conclusion that “Killing Them Softly” is a strong film for the acting and I think it’s very unique, love it or hate it.
I think it will definitely be one way or the other for audiences who choose to see it. Just please don’t bring your kids, which happened during the showing I went to. This movie is very violent and I don’t know what about the word “killing” in the title is not clear enough to show that.
Which does bring me to my one definite complaint about the film. I am a bit squeamish about violence so the realistic and tortuous scenes as the victim awaited his unavoidable death were hard for me to watch. There were also scenes where the violence is depicted off screen with hints to the viewer like blood splatter or gunshots. I thought both types of scenes fit in with the film artistically, but then I was lost when effects that looked more like a video game came into play.
I would have preferred the more realistic scenes – even if I had to look away half the time – but the filmmakers should have just picked one way or the other instead of mixing up the effects styles.
I will add “Killing Them Softly” to my list to see again and try to take more away from the meaning.
Heck, maybe I’ll even read that book when I finish the four others I am in the middle of.
Any weekend is a good movie weekend, but with the snowpocalypse rumors flying around again in Minneapolis, maybe you’ll want to stay in.
If you have cable, I see the Ken Burns documentary “Central Park Five” is available now as well as “Beasts of a Southern Wild.”
Both are on my list, but I am going to try to venture out for a ladies night and a few cocktails tonight if the world doesn’t end.
Then tomorrow – MOVIES!


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