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Killing Them Softly

Killing Them Softly

Released 21 September 2012
Director Andrew Dominik

Ray Liotta, Brad Pitt, James Gandolfini, Scoot McNairy, Ben Mendelsohn, Vincent Curatola, Richard Jenkins, Trevor Long, Max Casella, Sam Shepard
Writer(s) Andrew Dominik

Dede Gardner, Anthony Katagas, Brad Pitt, Paula Mae Schwartz, Steve Schwartz
Origin United States
Running Time 97 minutes
Genre Crime, thriller
Rating 18

Softly does it.

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that when Brad Pitt isn’t showing up in the latest celebrity gossip magazine or playing second fiddle to his wife’s left leg, he’s actually a bloody good actor. Killing Them Softly is Pitt’s second collaboration with writer-director Andrew Dominik; a man for whom over-exposure certainly isn’t a problem. Killing Them Softly is only his third film in twelve years, the others being Chopper in 2000 and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford in 2007. Again, he proves himself to be a considerable talent. Killing Them Softly is a complicated balancing act between furious violence, black comedy and heart-shredding pathos.

Pitt plays Jackie Cogan, a hit man tasked to deal with the aftermath of the armed robbery of a mob controlled poker game. The main suspect is the game’s hapless organiser, Markie (Ray Liotta). Markie though, is innocent. The real culprits are two opportunistic ex-cons - the anxiety wracked Frankie (Scoot McNairy) and the wonderfully squalid Russell (Ben Mendelsohn). We follow Jackie as he calls in an old colleague played by James Gandolfini and the net begins to close on the guilty parties.

Like last year’s hit Drive, the film features sequences of spectacular violence that are at once sickening and beautiful with exquisite sound design and interesting effects. Some may find these scenes a little hard to take and even though they stay with you, there is so much more to enjoy once you emerge from behind your fingertips. The whole production hits as hard as any of those punches. The dialogue crackles with dark wit and precision and each character is a fully rounded, interesting creation given life by a uniformly excellent cast.

The film is shot against the backdrop of the 2008 U.S. Presidential Election and the political rhetoric spewing from television and radio provides a constant background hum. It gives an interesting political angle to the film but not necessarily in the way one might expect. It’s made very clear that the travails of the American economy is effecting the lives of the characters (recession prices for a hit) but it also feels completely irrelevant. Crisis hasn’t politically mobilised anyone here, despite its constant presence.

All this background noise builds up to create a rich as well as riotously entertaining experience. Let’s hope Dominik takes less time with his next feature because Killing Them Softly is one of the most viciously compelling films of the year.

- Linda O’Brien