Killing Them Softly (Andrew Dominik, 2012)
Jackie Cogan is an enforcer hired to restore order after three dumb guys
rob a Mob protected card game, causing the local criminal economy to
Being invited to a premiere is something, but like the last time I got into a premiere it was for Tree of Life, a film I adored at the first sight and that I was expecting blissful things. And believe me seeing that monument of a film in Theaters was quite something. On the other side, getting into Andrew Dominik's Killing Them Softly was not a film I was expecting that much but I still had high expectations since the last collaboration between the director and Brad Pitt was something that we can easily relate to a near-masterpiece. This movie was called The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and boy, what a film it was. A meditative Western on guilt, admiration, and the passage from boyhood to manhood filled with superb performances from Pitt and Casey Affleck.
Our feature, Killing Them Softly, just like the popular song almost titled the same way, describes how Jackie Cogan (Pitt) prefers to kill his victims, he hates the agonizing and the feelings that it brings to him. He is an enforcer called by the local mob of a small town to get rid of the people of who stole the money of the whole mobsters in a card game. Just like Roger Ebert stated in his review: This is a five stars cast in a two stars movie. With the likes of Richard Jenkins, James Gandolfini, and Ray Liotta, all faces of gangsters, one would expect a high quality crime/gangster film. It is indeed a crime/gangster flick, but the label stops here.
Adapted to the screen by Dominik, this novel by George V. Higgins, which I haven't read, is set during the first election of President Barack Obama and the economic crisis was at its peak at that time. Cogan is the guy to restore the order of the small town mob business and he goes with drastic measures. He doesn't make politics and he is surely not a diplomat. Something like the nemesis of Obama. In some ways, he however brings the change that Obama's campaign was based on. And we kind of feel that the greedy mobsters represented by Richard Jenkins are the Republicans afraid of change and taking so long to decide on something and getting a little money out of their pockets to make things advance. But the background palette of the film and its comparisons to politics isn't the worst thing.
The whole gang of characters, a band of losers, mobsters, and killers are all at different levels contemptible. It is very difficult to get into the story since so many characters are involved and few have really an interesting involvement. Of all the pathetic losers depicted, James Gandolfini's Micky sure earns the 1st place for uselessness and time spending. Out of the 90 plus minutes of the film so many scenes seem to be time filling. The actual interesting moments are so sparse that the movie lacks in links and writing. I'll have to investigate on a potential director's cut to see if there are many scenes that were left out and that could add more sense to this waste. And I haven't got around the part that is completely useless and extremely annoying: the drug trip of the two youngsters with effects that were used more than forty years ago in Easy Rider. Even if you put one of my favourite songs of The Velvet Underground to introduce the scene; it won't make it better.
Finally, it is nonsense now to state that Killing Them Softly didn't met my expectations. This review is quite clear about the fact that a complete rewrite could have at least helped to tighten up the scenes together and give a little help to support the superb photography and the over aesthetics of the violent scenes. Let's just hope that Killing Them Softly is a let down and that Andrew Dominik will be back on his feet and find back his inspiration he had with his The Assassination of Jesse James...