‘Killing Them Softly’ fascinating in part
Directed by Andrew Dominik
Starring: Brad Pitt, Richard Jenkins and James Gandolfini
Rating: Three out of five stars
America is viewed as the land of equal opportunity, where anyone can be successful, with all the resources they need for prosperity at their fingertips.
In “Killing Them Softly,” director Andrew Dominik draws a tenuous comparison between U.S. government and organized crime, and does so with a cynical streak.
Set during the final days of the Bush administration in 2008, with Obama’s campaign speeches as background noise for many scenes, Dominik’s assertion is that America is a business and, like any business, everyone is in it for themselves.
Such is the case for two low-level cronies who rob a mob-backed gambling den and, in the process, run afoul of some very nasty people.
Jackie Cogan (Brad Pitt) is dispatched to track down and kill the men responsible for the heist, leaving a swath of blood and carnage in his wake.
So, with the mob representing America, and the thieves representing citizens, you can see how Dominik’s film adopts a pessimistic view of capitalism and how it can foster greed in the face of opportunity.
The problem is that the film has all the subtlety of a wood-chipper, loudly making its point while grinding on your nerves the whole time.
It’s the quieter moments when the movie shines, with actors at the top of their games playing off each other with cracking dialogue.
Pitt, in particular, seems to relish the opportunity to play this charmingly unsavory character. Cogan treats his job with matter-of-fact seriousness but is ruthless when it comes to dispatching his targets.
James Gandolfini also turns in a nice supporting performance as a hit-man on a career backslide. It’s like watching Tony Soprano outlive his glory days.
If only “Killing Them Softly” were more discreet about its intentions, the movie would be an easier pill to swallow.
It’s too blunt for greatness but still finds ways to fascinate, however brief those moments may be.
Frank Miller is a Sacramento writer.