I’ll Wait For The DVD: Killing Them Softly

Posted: April 21, 2013 in I'll Wait For The DVD, Movies, Reviews
Tags: , , , , ,

Sometimes you just don’t get around to catching a flick 

File:Killing Them Softly poster.jpg

Killing Them Softly (d. Andrew Dominik)

So why didn’t I see it in the theater?  There was a wide gulf between audience and critical responses.  CinemaScore, an audience polling group, assigned the film an ‘F’, a rarity with easy to please mass audiences, while Rotten Tomatoes, the critic aggregate site, gave it a ‘fresh’ rating of 76%.  The great disparity gave me cause for pause and the film was gone as quickly and as quietly as it arrived.

So why did I buy the DVD?  The disparity.  The truth is I don’t generally trust the movie going public.  These are the people who have made Adam Sandler and Kevin James billionaires.  The eventual explanation for the audience response was that they were not presented the movie they were expecting.  The previews led one to believe they were getting a typical Mafia movie but Dominik and star, Brad Pitt, delivered an offbeat, slower moving art house flick, more concerned with characters and motivations than with bloody shoot outs.  Hell, that’s not the movies fault that’s the ad agency who was trying to get butts in seats.  One should never judge the movie they think they’re going to see.  One should judge the movie they actually see.

So was it worth it?  Oh, hell yeah!  I was more than pleasantly surprised with the film.  There’s a brilliant scene towards the beginning that is so filled with anticipatory dread that I could barely contain myself.  It’s filled with great performances from familiar actors like Pitt, Richard Jenkins, James Gandolfini, and Ray Liotta.  Oddly, it reminded me a bit of my favorite film of 2011, Drive, which also subverted audience expectations.  My only real complaint is that the second act felt a bit light.  At 99 minutes, the movie is very streamlined and its admittedly spare plot gets straight to the point. Allegedly, the director delivered a much longer first cut at 2 1/2 hours which he willingly edited.  I’d be very happy to see that first cut.

So what’s it about?  It’s the fall of 2008.  Barack Obama is about to be elected president.  The economy is in collapse and the job market sucks.  A shady businessman, Johnny Amato, enlists two petty criminals, Russell and Mickey, to knock off a Mob protected high stakes poker den (the aforementioned tense scene) run by Markie Trattman (Liotta), who’s got a bit of a reputation when it comes to busted up card games.  In response, all the other action around town is shut down.  Nobody’s making money and they’ve got mouths need feeding.  A cool as ice hitman, Jackie Cogan (Pitt), is called in to clean up the mess.  He quickly susses out the perpetrators but is having a difficult time getting the okay to take care of business from Driver (Jenkins), the mouthpiece of the men running the show.  After some negotiations, he’s allowed to bring in another shooter, Mickey (Gandolfini), to split the hit.  Mickey’s glad to take the assignment cause he needs the cash and is facing some legal issues back home.  These sordid characters bounce off each other leading to an ultimate and cynical realization that the good ole’ US of A isn’t just a country, it’s a business.  And people need to get paid.

So what’s the grade?  I gave this 4 of 5 stars on Letterboxd which would translate to 8 stars on a 10 point scale. So if 10 stars were an A+ and 9 were an A, I’d be more than comfortable giving this film an A-.  However you grade such things the movie’s just plain good.

  1. Anne Faithful says:

    And this review is why I respect you and your opinions so much. I saw this film at the theatre because of Brad Pitt, nuff said. Gandolfini and Liotta were also outstanding. The best part was, I got the movie. You are spot on when you stated that a person should judge a movie they actually see. Brilliant.

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