Killing Them Softly

Andrew Dominik

BY Kevin ScottPublished Nov 29, 2012

"It's only money," Frankie reassures the group of men he's robbing. The engine driving Killing Them Softly is fuelled by the simplistic notion that men will go to desperate lengths to get their hands on some, while others will commit terrible deeds to protect it. In the midst of bursts of stylized violence and stretches of rambling, occasionally amusing dialogue, the actors are stuck in a few disparate films.

Frankie (Scoot McNairy, doing his best Ratso Rizzo) is a small-time hood who drags along his junkie friend, Russell (Ben Mendelsohn), to rob a poker game for Johnny Amato (Vincent Curatola), a bigger fish with the inside information on the high-stakes, regular event. It's run by Markie Trattman (Ray Liotta) and is an attractive proposition because Trattman has recently robbed his game and then blabbed about it, making him the chief suspect to the shady powers-that-be.

That's why Jackie (Brad Pitt) is brought in to sort things out; it's the kind of thinly sketched cold-as-ice killer Pitt can effortlessly embody without having to show any of the range of his more challenging roles. With a structure revolving around a series of emotionless, graphic murders, it would be easy to draw comparisons to Drive, if not for the fact that Jackie has a driver (Richard Jenkins) relaying the orders from higher up.

Throughout, there is the constant reminder of the setting ― a recovering New Orleans leading up to Obama's election in 2008 ― and much talk of the ongoing recession, in some hollow attempt to link the economic climate to the crimes being committed. James Gandolfini arrives at one point as a hired gun that's fallen on hard times. He drinks incessantly and holes up in his hotel room with hookers, embarrassing Jackie with his uncouth behaviour, lamenting the passing of the good ol' days.

It could be that he's meant to symbolize a bygone era of decadence, but instead comes across more as the perfect emblem for a movie painfully unsure of its intentions.

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