DVD Review - Killing Them Softly
Brad Pitt stars as Jackie, an enforcer for a mob organization. He's called to investigate the robbery of a high-stakes poker game. Ray Liotta plays Markie, the guy who runs the poker game who is a suspect because he admitted to robbing his own poker game years ago. James Gandolfini plays Mickey, another enforcer that Jackie brings who ends up doing nothing but getting drunk and sleeping with hookers. Richard Jenkins plays Driver, the middleman between Jackie and the higher-ups in the mob.
The movie starts and mostly follows the two guys who are hired to rob the poker game. Scoot McNairy who plays Frankie and Ben Mendelsohn who plays Russell are the two guys. Their characters are interesting and their dialogue is interesting as well. Brad Pitt's character actually isn't introduced until after a third of the movie has passed and he basically pursues them. It's somewhat similar to writer-director Andrew Dominik's The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. In that 2007 film, Dominik focuses on two guys who are trying to get away with something and Brad Pitt is this larger-than-life figure that looms over them.
Dominik is also the writer-director for this film, again adapting a book, but even though the ending to his 2007 movie was in the title itself, he still managed to build tension and suspense in that the scenes could go either way. Here, the tension and suspense are absent or not as strongly felt. It starts with the robbery scene itself. Dominik teases that something might happen during that robbery but nothing does.
This is fine. I didn't need for anything to happen. One hopes or expects for the best laid plans to go awry as as in a Coen brothers film, but without having the robbery go sideways, there needed to be something. The pursuit of the two robbers, for example, needed to be an actual pursuit. In a single line of dialogue with Driver, Jackie learns who the two guys are and where they are. There's no effort, no struggle, nothing that Jackie has to do.
Therefore, the fun of this movie isn't in the chase. It isn't in seeing Brad Pitt do anything. He delivers his lines brilliantly and smoothly as he always does, but his character isn't as much of a threat or a looming menace as he was in The Assassination of Jesse James. The only fun that's left is the violence. A man gets brutally beaten and slow-motion gun shots lead to slow-motion, blood splatter. Several bullets to the head resulting in head explosions are depicted in medium to close-ups.
This fun of violence isn't any fun at all. It's brutal and it's ugly, which is supposed to be a distilled showing of capitalism, but who cares? There isn't a character here to be liked. If there is no one to identify with the audience, the movie has a harder road. Dominik doesn't make it any softer. It's relentless greed and selfishness.
One Star out of Five.
Rated R for violence, sexual references, pervasive language and drug use.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 37 mins.