Killing Them Softly

Out Now On-Demand

In this dark comic crime thriller, a couple of drug-addled low-lifes rob a mob-protected poker game. Enforcer Jackie Cogan (Brad Pitt) is tasked with tracking the thieves down, and making an example of them to restore confidence in a grubby business built on trust. Pitt re-teams with Kiwi-born director Andrew Dominik after The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Also stars James Gandolfini, Ray Liotta and Richard Jenkins.

While the collapse of the U.S. and global economy lurks in the background, Killing Them Softly depicts a criminal underworld that, like Wall Street, runs on perception, reputation and bureaucratic process - not to mention a bunch of poorly paid Average Joes making a living by doing unpleasant work for their bosses.

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Directed by

Written by

Thriller

97mins

Rating: R16 contains violence, drug use, offensive language & sexual themes

USA

It may not sound like much on paper, but Andrew (Chopper) Dominik's ugly-beautiful crime drama is an embarrassment of cine-riches. The gangland revenge plot is familiar. The outcome a foregone conclusion. But somehow the resulting film – gritty, tense, funny, moving – is one of the best, and saddest, of the year.

Set in a devastated America, with the white-noise of TV recession chatter swamping the soundtrack, and post-Katrina New Orleans providing a rain-soaked backdrop, the film introduces low-lives Scoot McNairy (Monsters) and Ben Mendelsohn (Animal Kingdom) as they rob Ray Liotta's backroom card game. It's a suicidal plan that brings Brad Pitt's super-efficient fixer, Richard Jenkins world-weary administrator and James Gandolfini's alcoholic hitman down on their heads.

It's a terrific cast, with particular kudos going to McNairy – pinched, whiny, totally out of his depth; Mendelsohn, who's perfected a distressing combination of pathetic and terrifying; and a career-best Gandolfini, who switches from sympathetic to repulsive between martinis. Pitt, meanwhile, plays his super-cool pointman like Tyler Durden grown older and even more disillusioned. “How badly do you want him beaten?” he asks Jenkins disinterestedly. The near-unwatchable scene that follows answers the question with blood, tears and vomit.

Although Dominik punctures the grubbiness with bitter laughs and sequences of heart-in-mouth beauty – bullets sweeping balletically through fracturing glass, Mendelsohn slipping into smacked- out oblivion – he knows these people are inching ever closer to damnation. “This country is fucked. There's a plague coming,” says Pitt. How long, Dominik seems to be asking, before it comes for us too?

Empire (UK)

press

A good, efficient crime thriller, let down by clunky social commentary but lifted by excellent performances, including perhaps Brad Pitt's recent best.

Guardian (UK)

press

This is an unrepentantly cynical take on the hope-and-change promised to the US in 2008; this year's election race makes it look even bleaker, an icily confident black comedy of continued disillusion.

Hollywood Reporter

press

The film is terribly smart in every respect, with ne'er-a-false note performances and superb craft work from top to bottom.

Playlist

press

Uncompromising and uncommercial, divisive and brave, Killing Them Softly bitterly boils at the state of the nation.

Time (USA)

press

Despite enough pummeling to flatten Rocky Balboa in all six movies, the only thing that truly rewards your attendance is Pitt in another effortless star performance.

Total Film (UK)

press

Tough, stylish, violent and studded with stars – but like so many of its American gangsters, Killing Them Softly doesn't quite get the job done.

Killing Them Softly

Killing Them Softly is essential viewing. Gritty, tense, darkly funny and one of the best films of the year. Director Andrew Dominik uses the same stylish direction and stunning cinematography as his previous work, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. One of Killing Them Softly's greatest strengths is it's cast. Brad Pitt plays Jackie Cogan, a professional hitman. He can't stand the emotions and feelings from the people he kills when at close range. He likes killing them softly, from a distance. This is one of Pitt's best performances and his best role since Tyler Durden in Fight Club. Richard Jenkins, James Gandolfini and Ray Liotta all give riveting performances. Scoot McNairy and Ben Mendelsohn are unrecognizable as Frankie and Russell, two idiots who think there smart enough to rob a mob-protected card game. But after Russell brags about the heist, both are in danger from the mob and Jackie. Killing Them Softly is one of the most beautifully shot movies I've ever seen. The slow motion car crash scene is incredible. The dialogue between Brad Pitt and Scoot McNairy in the last thirty minutes is amazing. Brad Pitt's killer line "I'm living in America, and in America you're on your own. America's not a country. It's just a business. Now f**kin' pay me" is the best line I've heard in a long time. This deserves to sit next to great crime films like The Departed and Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels. Killing Them Softly is a modern masterpiece.


complete Nonsense

dialogue indecipherable at times, long pieces of meaningless script, looked like college kids been given a film camera to play with....DO NOT go see it !

GoonerD

Darren

user


Disappointing

Good trailer, poor movie. Characters that didn't need to be there either. Dodge a bullet and miss this one


Arty violence anyone?

If you like the idea of seeing a bullet enter someone's head in extreme slow motion this is your film! It's really just another gangland film pretending to be a social commentary on greed and violence in America. Once again Brad Pitt struggles to maintain his accent, James Gandolfini is still Tony Soprano and the American crime flick makes us all glad we lead a gentler way of life.

It's not a bad film, it may even be a good film but life is short and I'm not sure that watching films like this is beneficial to the psyche.


Boring, boring, boring and pointless.

Dont waste your time with this slow and pointless movie. As it ended my partner and I looked at each other and kinda laughed - What the??


Awful movie

Read the 5 stars and thought... wow 5 stars. Must see it. Very disappointed as it was depressing, violent and grim movie that looked like it was sponsored by big tobacco.


Good but not great.

Whilst I'm not going to argue that it was a great movie, I am going to rustle some jimmies and say it's not the best thing I've ever seen, not even the best thing I've seen this year. It has some interesting points: life is cheap, the underworld is equally impacted by the recession and the glory days of the old organised crime world have gone. Intriguing, yet it's nothing that we haven't come across before in some form or another before. Indeed the rather weak catalyst of the film seeks to deliberately and quite obnoxiously reinforce the statement that 'the recession has hit everyone, even the crooks'.

However, I found the idea of the new world board of trustee's managing the day to day running and expense accounts of the street running 'knee-breakers' quite interesting - crime has gone corporate and they were pinching pennies to satisfy the investors. Clever.

Still, Pitt was a charming psychopath (a mental health assessment may yet be needed to confirm this) and Gandolfini epitomised a hit-man gone to seed. Yet, despite moments of brilliance, it just didn't scratch that itch at the back of my skull - that itch that said it just should have been better.


Killing Them Bleakly...

Kiwi-born 'Chopper' director Andrew Dominik reunites with 'The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford' star Bradley Pitt for a dark, brooding noir that proves they can and do make 'em like they used to. Dominik's script (loosely based on George Higgins' crime thriller 'Cogan's Trade') oozes menace and well-wrought dialogue, as Pitt's mob enforcer, Coogan, is enlisted to serve sentence on the unlucky hoods (Scoot McNairy and Ben Mendelsohn) who made the life-ending mistake of robbing Ray Liotta's card game (never a good idea...)

Pitt, Liotta, James Gandolfini, Richard Jenkins - hell, the entire cast bristle with menace - they're so bad it's good to behold. Some may find the post-Hurricane New Orleans setting and Obama running on a promise of 'Hope' backdrop a tad message-heavy - but for me it only added to the air of existential angst.

As Coogan (Pitt) tells Driver (Jenkins): "America's not a country. It's just a business. Now f****n' pay me." Movies are a business too. Showbusiness. But that doesn't mean that all movies have to involve cars transforming into robots... in 3D. Some of them are for adults and pack an adult punch...

Cinematic tour-de-forces don't come along too often, so do yourself a favour and catch 'Killing Them Softly' - it's state-of-the-nation cinema that, like Damon Runyon's tales, packs a punch whilst never shirking on the comedy, characterisation or drama of its bleak lowlife setting.


Another slice of genius from Andrew Dominik

Andrew Dominik's cold-blooded satire of American corporate-political-capitalism cuts through its subject like a freshly sharpened guillotine blade. At least someone clearly wants retribution for the two trillion seventy billion dollars that Bush and Obama handed out to the banks while America sank in its own mud.

The Aussie auteur responsible for the magnificent neo-western "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford," here manipulates the crime drama genre with an undeniable cinematic panache. Dominik based the script on a George V. Higgins novel - see "The Friends of Eddie Coyle." Economic metaphors big and small fill the 2008-set narrative about gangster vengeance.

Each greasy grimy hoodlum represents a specific stratum of economic influence. Lowlife Russell (Ben Mendelsohn) represents the nothing-to-lose emigrant faction. When Russell's fellow criminal pal Frankie (Scoot McNairy) tries to secure a card-game hold-up job from a slimy smalltime kingpin named Johnny Amato - aka squirrel - (played by Vincent Curatola), Russell is quick to set his would-be bossman straight as to just who is doing who a favor. The fact that Russell is a junkie with not much more on his mind than where his next fix or lay is coming from, is beside the point. He might be the lowest rung of society, but that doesn't prevent Russell from having some self-respect to go along with his hedonistic priorities.

The successful heist draws a corporate-minded boss known only as the Driver (Richard Jenkins) who hires professional hit man Jackie Cogan (Brad Pitt) to settle the score. The men who orchestrated and executed the heist have to pay. If you've ever wondered about what it would look like for the bankers who ruined America's economy to have to pay with their own flesh, the filmmakers deliver a beautifully brutal vision of such a comeuppance.

The film's evocative title stretches across the narrative like a transparent satin sheet. Brad Pitt's character is methodical and cynical, but he's also fully aware of the emotional burden of his deadly occupation. He says of his profession that he likes to kill from a distance. Predator drones come to mind. Jackie goes so far as to ask for assistance in the guise of a hit man he worked with several years ago. James Gandolfini's Mickey isn't as together as he used to be. He's turned into a raging alcoholic with an addiction to prostitutes. If Jackie represents a self-protective mercenary, Mickey is a cautionary vision of where Jackie could be headed if he isn't careful.

"Killing Them Softly" is a stylish crime drama of piercing monologues and canny dialogue that reverberates with social subtext. Nothing is wasted. People and places are appropriately ugly. Every performance is spot-on. That the film so effectively lashes out at economic hypocrisy in America is truly astonishing. Here is a one-movie revolution against all of the corporate-controlled two-party actions that have turned America into a third-world dictatorship. Brilliant is too soft a word to describe it.


Solid, but maybe forgettable

In the tradition of underworld crime dramas such as The Godfather, Andrew Dominik's Killing Them Softly is a tense and gripping tale of gangland politics, yet reaches for more with sharp allegory and moments of biting satirical jabs at the bureaucratic mishandling of the recent financial crisis.

Featuring an impressive ensemble of solid performances, Killing Them Softly weaves a complex narrative across various levels of an urban crime syndicate, from Richard Jenkins' shady middle-man, something of a liaison with the 'legitimate' world, to the bottom-feeding duo of Scott McNairy and Ben Mendelsohn, whose heist of an illegal poker room launches the plot.

Brad Pitt is pitched as the film's lead, and he delivers typically solid if unremarkable work as contract hitman Jackie Cogan, yet truthfully he is just one piece of Dominik's larger puzzle. Killing Them Softly's scope is ambitious, and for the most part successful, particularly in the darkly hilarious interactions between Pitt and Jenkins scattered across the film. The frustrations of committee decision making are a big theme of the film, and surprisingly the infuriating situations Cogan is faced with seem almost like they've dropped out of a Mike Judge film.

However, as an unfortunate consequence of the multiple story threads, not everything works. James Gandolfini appears as a colleague of Cogan, and while his story is interesting, it has little impact on the wider plot and as such could have been trimmed or jettisoned altogether. On the opposite end of the spectrum, not enough time is devoted to Mendelsohn's stunning work as the grimy, burned-out junkie Russell. His arc is wrapped up a little too neatly, and without much explanation, yet Mendelsohn gives one of the stand-out performances of the year, and announces himself as an early Oscar season contender.

Killing Them Softly is certainly a good film, but I have an odd suspicion that in a months time I'm not really going to remember much about it, aside from Mendelsohn perhaps. There are some terrific moments, and Dominik has a good eye but seems a little hesitant to push himself too much. The infusion of political critique is smart if occasionally too obvious, and, much like last year's Drive, the unexpected flashes of violence are effective in their brutality. It may not have the legs to go down as a classic, but Killing Them Softly does have enough going for it to merit a recommendation.

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