‘Killing Them Softly’ a hard-hitter
“Killing Them Softly” is an apt title, summing up this darkly comic mob tale in so many words.
It’s one of the most intense – and enjoyable – mob films this decade, which, for its seemingly simple premise, speaks volumes.
With a deft blend of dialogue and nerve-shattering brutality, it gracefully shifts from subtle to blatant, while drawing a rather obvious comparison between the criminal underworld and America’s economic system.
Director Andrew Dominik’s (“The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford”) approach can seem heavy-handed at times, but the devil’s in the details, with the big picture delivered through the film’s masterful subtleties, the kind that stick around days after watching.
Dominik spares no punches in painting a cynical, dialogue-driven and blood-soaked world that mirrors the economic climate of late 2008.
The recklessness of Wall Street has plunged the nation into financial instability, and the government’s gearing up for a bailout. On the microcosmic level, a trio of small-time crooks, Frankie (Scoot McNairy, “Argo”), Russell (Ben Mendelsohn, “The Dark Knight Rises”) and Squirrel (Vincent Curatola, HBO’s “The Sopranos”) have robbed a card game run by mobster Markie (Ray Liotta, “GoodFellas”), upsetting the underworld’s economic applecart.
See, Markie had previously – on a lark – robbed his own game years back, making him the perfect patsy for someone else’s crime. But with the card games shut down citywide and the recession further crippling their income, the unseen mob bosses, through their attorney (Richard Jenkins, “The Cabin in the Woods”), contract enforcer Jackie (Brad Pitt, “The Tree of Life”) to bail them out, as it were.
The pragmatic Jackie is tasked with cleaning up his employers’ mess, while also looking out for his own interests. Of course, things look simpler on paper, even when he seeks assistance from an old friend, washed-up and terminally downtrodden hitman Mickey (James Gandolfini, “The Man Who Wasn’t There”), whose downward spiral complicates matters worse.
It’s a surprisingly simple setup, but Dominik effectively milks it with his own solid writing (based on the novel, “Cogan’s Trade,” by George V. Higgins), captivating cinematography from Greig Fraser (“Let Me In”) and engaging performances all throughout.
The entire cast is superb, portraying this unsettling cross-section of scum incarnate with entertaining finesse, particularly Pitt and McNairy, whose scenes together exude a rich, foreboding sense of doom.
Ultimately, “Killing Them Softly” is the sum of its parts, and while Dominik’s political allegory is unapologetically brazen, the payoff – courtesy of Pitt, no less – is nothing short of brilliant.
“Killing Them Softly,” rated R for violence, sexual references, pervasive language and some drug use, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone. For show times, visit http://www.mountaintimes.com/movies.