Movie Review – Killing Them Softly (2012)

Killing Them Softly, 2012.

Written and Directed by Andrew Dominik.
Starring Brad Pitt, Ray Liotta, Ben Mendelsohn, James Gandolfini, Scoot McNairy, Vincent Curatola, Richard Jenkins, Max Casella and Sam Shepard.


When a mob gambling game is robbed, an enforcer is sent in to investigate and clean house.
I went in to Killing Them Softly with high hopes, unfortunately I left feeling let down – that what had the potential going in to be something incredible, ultimately felt a little flat.
KTS tells the story of the repercussions incurred by three criminals, Johnny Amato, Frankie and Russell, when the latter two knock off a back street gambling game, and the story of how the mob investigates such an attack on their businesses. Set to the back drop of the 2009 American Presidential Election and the troubled economic climate at the time, we see how the economy affects those hard working criminals in America’s underbelly.
The film starts off feeling very real; almost like a documentary, it gives this great air of grittiness and realism to everything that honestly left me a little unsure, and excited, as to where the film was going to go. And for the most part the film is enjoyable, it just never really seems to get going, the stakes never build and the excitement never rises. A problem for the film is the lack of one likable character to be invested with in some way or another or to just enjoy. Brad Pitt’s character, Jackie Cogan, enforcer for the mob seems to be this character, but I never ultimately got drawn in.

Whilst the documentary-like feel at the start of the film gives a unique aspect to everything there are two moments where it doesn’t at all feel documentary-like. During these particular moments I found myself wanting the scenes to just end and move on, but they drag on and are played out far too much. One scene involves our two robbers, Frankie and Russell, trying to have a conversation, which is very difficult as one of them has just taken heroin. The scene is drawn out far too long as we see Russell slip in and out of consciousness as Frankie tries to talk to him. The second is a slow-mo sequence when Pitt’s Jackie makes a hit on a target, which initially works, but then again goes on for far too long. Unfortunately those moments only served to take me completely out of the film, rather than providing an interesting visual.

But whilst they are merely scenes that to me serve no real purpose, there is also a character that is brought in to this story to which I still have no idea why he was included at all. James Gandolfini plays Mickey, a hitman who is sent for at the request of Jackie as someone who could take care of a job for them. Unfortunately for both us and Jackie, all Mickey does is drink and sleep with hookers, which then makes him a problem for Jackie. Or so he says. And then he is removed from the events of the film, off screen. I’m still really struggling to wrap my head around his inclusion in the film – his character served no purpose, and then was removed off screen. Wasteful.

Jackie himself is extremely cynical about America, and that becomes very apparent in the final scene of the movie, which comes to a close with a terrific line which sums his feelings up – and I think, a feeling and a statement which the director, Andrew Dominik, was also trying to make about America, but which never really bared fruit.

I feel thet Killing Them Softly could have had something really great to say amidst the backdrop of a really great modern film-noir, but unfortunately it didn’t hit any sort of high for me and left me feeling a bit disappointed at a missed opportunity.

Flickering Myth Rating: Film ★ ★ / Movie ★ ★ ★

Martin Deer

Around the Web