April 21, 2013

Killing Them Softly

Andrew Dominik, 2012

          Jackie Cogan (Brad Pitt) is hired to come in and clean up after three amateurish criminals decide to rob a local back-room poker game. Until that mess is cleaned up, the criminal economy cannot thrive out of fears of another hold-up. Dominik wrote and directed this style-over-substance crime drama, and it's a departure from his previous film The Assassination of Jesse James. Its basically an observational crime piece with no real "good guys". You sit back to watch criminals interact in their rain-drenched underworld. You get to see good performances by Ray Liotta (very Liotta-like which is always fine), James Gandolfini (who is basically Tony Soprano with a drinking problem), and Scoot McNairy who provides the best acting performance in the film with his evident street-grime and dead-on suburban Boston accent. I must credit Dominik on his use of Brad Pitt's character. Although Jesse James has become one of my favorite films, my ONE reservation with it was buying into Pitt as Jesse James. While he covered James' complicated character structure and unpredictable nature, I felt Jesse James would have been more of an intimidating force. In this film, I felt he had breached that gap. He was believable as a sociopathic hit-man who has no hesitation pulling the trigger to get the job done quickly. The downside of the film is that you are pulled into the tension of the Poker game robbery very early on, but after that it never really gains much ground. The lack of story forces you to admire beautiful camera-work but leaves you wanting more from the power-list of actors involved. The political narrative that echoes in the background is intended to reinforce how the economic downturn has affected even the criminals of America, but I found that message repetitive and it served as more of a reminder of the film's setting. With more subtlety and sub-plot structure, this film would have been more memorable and have a bigger impact.

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