Killing Them Softly [Blu-Ray] Andrew Dominik

Killing Them Softly [Blu-Ray] Andrew Dominik
5
Quirky Kiwi filmmaker Andrew Dominik makes no bones about his agenda for this superficially faithful adaptation of George V. Higgins's impartial crime novel. There's no room for interpretation when political speeches by Bush and Obama about the economic crisis are blasting from televisions and radios in the background of every scene that permits it. The financial intricacies and concerns of the American nation are mirrored by those of the criminal underworld, with each newscast positioned to pertain to the exact events occurring in the otherwise straightforward and slow burning narrative concerning the rippling repercussions of an ill-advised internal heist. Unable to find legitimate work and in dire need of cash after being released from prison, Frankie (Scoot McNairy, Monsters, Argo, who's been mighty busy lately) jumps in on his pal Squirrel's plan to rob a mob-run card game. Frankie brings his shady heroin addict friend, Russell (the chameleonic Ben Mendleson, Animal Kingdom), in on the job as well. With a scapegoat already in place — the man running the game, Markie (Ray Liotta, playing a soft mobster for a change), laughingly admitted to knocking over his operation previously and suffered no consequences, but it's clear that guts and goodwill won't save his skin a second time — the job looks like a safe and easy score. Despite reeking of amateurism, which is like blood in the water to hardened gangsters, the crusty duo lives to tell the tale. But that's the problem: unreliable boasting junky that he is, Russell brags about the score. To quell the agitated investors, the mob (represented by Richard Jenkins) brings in a hit man (Brad Pitt) to handle the situation. His methods are pragmatic — nothing is personal; it's all business — but hindered by gangland bureaucracy. With his penchant for long, languid takes and tracking shots, Dominik is an appropriate match for the meandering material. Unlike most violence- and drama-driven mob stories, Killing Them Softly is more interested in spending time in mundane digressions that humanize the criminals as just another subset of working stiffs preoccupied with drinking, getting laid and being paid. This doesn't make for the most consistently compelling viewing, but it does suit the comparison Dominik is trying to make. Also, since we spend most of the film watching casual conversations between regular blokes (the only women involved are uppity prostitutes) who just happen to make their scratch in an unseemly field, the few scenes of brutal violence are all the more jarring and unsettling. However, there's a strange divide between the visceral and nasty beat downs and the stylized glorification of violence — one slow motion shooting is almost randomly pornographic, utilizing special effects that don't hold a candle to a similar incident in Buffalo 66. Subtly is nowhere to be found in Dominik's methods for this project about the sense of entitlement that comes with services rendered. If any viewers somehow miss the subtext continuously leaking out of the background broadcasts, there's one final cynical rant that razes all the hypocritical and pandering political speechifying to drive the message home. For the special features, there are five deleted scenes that mostly expand on the meandering conversations and a brief, over-padded "Making Of," which is a shame, since Dominik, as desperate as he is to be viewed as an artist, is quite incisive in his brief offerings. (eOne)