© Wild Bunch/Central

Killing Them Softly
U.S.A. 2012

Opening 29 Nov 2012

Directed by: Andrew Dominik
Writing credits: Andrew Dominik, George V. Higgins
Principal actors: Brad Pitt, Ray Liotta, Richard Jenkins, Scoot McNairy, Ben Mendelsohn

Johnny Amato (Vincent Curatola) offers ex-con Frankie (Scoot McNairy) a no-risk opportunity to score big: hit Markie’s (Ray Liotta) mob protected card game. Frankie recruits his scruffy prison buddy Russell (Ben Mendelsohn), who ain’t so keen: he is just two grand short of his goal of becoming a drug dealer. Russell also clashes with Johnny; Frankie wheedles, and prevails, describing whom the mark is, how he robbed himself before, and later drunkenly let it slip. Everyone will assume Markie is behind it again. Sweating nervously, and markedly inept, they rob the game, leaving only their foul body odor behind.

What none of them expect is this enforcer: Driver (Richard Jenkins), the mob’s mouthpiece, wants to hire tried and true Dillon (Sam Shepard). Instead Dillon sends Jackie Cogan (Brad Pitt is effortlessly riveting as a sociopath hitman) ‘cause Dillon ain’t feeling too good. Jackie means business: he soon sniffs out Russell; he brings in Mickey (James Gandolfini) for backup, who, unbeknownst to him has become an over-sexed, over-the-hill, boozehound. Hence Jackie has to do the enforcing; getting a lil’ help from a local bottom-feeder, he justifies, “I like to kill them softly, at a distance.” Basically like-minded, nevertheless Driver blanches when Jackie advises his adroitness costs more, “America’s not a country, it’s a fuckin’ business…now give me my money”.

Australian Andrew Dominik writes and directs this grimy, gritty, violent gangsta’ film set in desolate areas of post-Katrina New Orleans. Based on George V. Higgins 1974 novel Cogan's Trade, and reminiscent of Scorsese’s Goodfellas (1990) and The Sopranos (1999–2007), ‘08 Obama – McCain presidential posters are prolific, as is political news reportage on radios and TVs in the background. Dominik viscerally combines dark humor – robbers clad in yellow-kitchen-gloves, Russell’s tiny dogs; with stylish cinematics – the slow-mo, glass shattering, spinning execution scene; flavor – punks at this level, by association, deserve what he gets, and flair – low-life driving ‘60s and ‘70s luxury autos, flaunting panache and verve. First-rate production values support excellent performances – Russell’s drug-induced disorientation, Mickey unbarring his soul, the pathetically tiresome bottom-feeder Frankie. A pulp noir tailored in satire, politics, and irony, Killing Them Softly is indicative of a growing trend: independent filmmakers’ concern with the deterioration in our social order, and Dominik is bitingly succinct. (Marinell Haegelin)

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