New Zealander and Melbournian Andrew Dominik has won all the credit a director could ever wish for with Chopper. Eric Bana didn’t suffer, either. Then came The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, which showed potential across the pond at Hollywood; and recently, to much acclaim, comes Killing Them Softly (KTS).
Let’s hit the ball quickly: KTS is a basic gangster/mafia movie. A member of the gang that gathers for high stake card games (Ray Liotta) robs his own game and later admits it; when, later, someone else pulls the same trick, a killer is brought to sort things out (Brad Pitt). Pitt, by the way, likes to kill his victims softly, from afar, without them getting to him emotionally. That is really all there is to the plot; the trick is how this plot is done.
You can get the feel for it through the number of women in this movie (I think I saw one, briefly). Further clues can be derived from references to Scorsese style gangster film, and even further from Tarantino style lengthy conversations about existence and nothing. Mix it all up, shake it up a bit more, and you get KTS: a film that perhaps overdoes the Tarantino conversations, a film that is perhaps a bit weak in its mafia depictions, but nevertheless a film that’s pretty loyal to its roots. Perhaps the best depiction of those mixed up styles is Micky (James Gandolfini), a killer brought by Pitt’s character to help with the killings but who turns out to be an disrupted interruption that talks too much.
Whatever. Mafia and lengthy talks are not KTS’ main agenda. Its agenda is made very clear through it constantly playing us news segments discussing the GFC (these clips seem to be authentic). Every shot is calculated, and those news bits are well integrated; they do, however, take center stage. Clearly, KTS is here to tell us that the USA is a country that’s managed the same way the mafia is, and it makes its case through the analogy between Pitt & Co on one side and those news segments of Bush & Co on the other.
Best scene: In case you did not get the point of the film, Brad Pitt delivers a closing speech-
This guy [Obama] wants to tell me we're living in a community? Don't make me laugh. I'm living in America, and in America you're on your own. America's not a country. It's just a business. Now fuckin' pay me.Overall: Occasionally boring, definitely too slow, the dialog is often hard to follow – but the message stands valid. 3 out of 5 stars.