KILLING THEM SOFTLY: DVD
Markie Trattman (Ray Liotta) runs one of the Mob's
many secret and lucrative poker games - a potential honeypot for
crooks tempted to cash in on the piles of ready cash on the
tables. When two young, opportunistic petty crims, Frankie (Scoot
McNairy) and Russell (Ben Mendelsohn) are talked into robbing
Markie's game at gunpoint by local lowlife Johnny Amato (Vincent
Curatola), the Mob sends in Jackie Cogan (Brad Pitt), one of its
hitmen, to find and punish those responsible. A mysterious driver
(Richard Jenkins) is Jackie's go-between for the Mob bosses, who
think more and more like corporate managers, much to Jackie's
ire. Since he knows Amato, he's reluctant to make the hit himself
and suggests they call in the heavy Mickey (James Gandolfini)
from New York - at a slightly higher price. Mickey turns up - but
Jackie is unimpressed and has to take all matters into his own
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Little wonder that Killing
Them Softly was invited to the Official Competition at Cannes
(2012); here is a movie about crooks and the Mob which presents
itself as a hard hitting crime drama, yet it quickly evolves into
something of an art movie with dark comedic undercurrents. Andrew
Dominik (of Chopper fame) discovered the author's work after
seeing The Friends of Eddy Doyle on TV, based on a George V.
Higgins book. He eventually found Killing Them Softly and was
seduced by the 'great characters, great dialogue and very simple
Higgins, it turns out, had been a prosecuting
attorney in Boston for 20 years; he knew his milieu. But Dominik
knows his milieu, too - the movies. He saw the story of the Mob's
activities as a parable or metaphor for the wider business of
America. As Jackie Cogan says, America is not a country, it's a
business. That's the thinking behind resetting the story into the
2008 Presidential election and the crumbling of the global
economy. The story is a microcosm of the macro world.
film is indeed a business story, where the business operates at
its most brutal, selfish level; it takes what it wants, and kills
anyone who stands in its way. In this world, the Alpha Males
rule; but Cogan is a more complex hitman than the standard
caricatures. He doesn't like all the touchy feely emotional
outpourings of intended victims so he kills them softly - from a
distance, if at all possible.
Brad Pitt relishes this
role, in which he is like a charming cobra or a delightful
conman. He'll kill you, but without malice. He wears his hair
slicked back and he smokes. He speaks softly but he drives a hard
The two younger crims, Frankie (Scoot McNairy)
and Russell (Ben Mendelsohn), are fabulous. Mendelsohn is written
as an Australian and he steals every scene he's in, even those
where he's stoned out of his head. McNairy is especially
effective when he is faced with the consequences of his actions
over a beer in a seedy bar.
Richard Jenkins has the
toughest role; it's the least showy, the least active. He sits
behind the wheel of his car for a series of secretive meeting
with Cogan, while they discuss their business - their Mob bosses
the targets of their regular complaints.
is great value as the slob of a hitman who drinks to excess and
punches the air with expletives. Ray Liotta is outstanding as
Markie, the smart aleck who gets himself into serious trouble by
letting his mouth off.
Given these characters, Dominik
immerses us in their world, not perfunctorily as an ordinary
crime movie might, but giving each of them screen time - more
than you'd expect - to allow us time to observe and understand.
This, and Dominik's cinematic flourishes, like extreme slo-mo for
a shooting - add texture and depth to the film, elevating it into
the highest reaches of its genre.
But the most daring
element of Dominik's film is (mis)his use of songs; he even dares
to anger the gods of cinema by using an excerpt from Windmills of
Your Mind (Petula Clark version), a song irrevocably welded to
our memory of The Thomas Crown Affair (1968 original version).
It's Only a Paper Moon (sung by Cliff Edwards) over a
particularly violent scene, likewise Life Is Just A Bowl of
Cherries (orchestral version). Dominik is clearly a lover of
Review by Louise Keller:
It is through
delectable vignettes between different characters that the
exposition of this sardonic crime story unfolds. Andrew Dominik's
deft touch brings candour to the examination of the mob's
processes, deflating any notion of sophistication or glamour to
the business of organised crime. While Dominik's Chopper (2000)
offered action in the form of overt violence, The Assassination
of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007) brought
deliberation; Killing Them Softly juxtaposes a wry humour as
human foibles are bared before the business of slaughter begins.
It all starts with relationships. Based on George V. Higgins'
novel Cogan's Trade, the state of economy forms the backdrop over
which the action takes place - in the lead up to the 2008 US
It can get touchy-feely, says Brad
Pitt's Jackie Cogan, the slick-haired enforcer hired to sort out
the order of things when the Mob-protected card game becomes
exposed. He is sitting in a car, talking to Richard Jenkins'
Driver, the go-between, who shakes his head in surprise when
asked if he has ever killed anyone. That is when Jackie explains:
he prefers to keep his distance when killing his prey, so as not
to be close enough to have feelings. Pitt has great presence as
the ultra smooth assassin who has an answer for everything and
makes it clear he is not paid 'to wait around'. These are
wonderful scenes, when potential solutions to unsavoury matters
are spoken about indifferently - as if it might have been a
conversation about the accounts.
Ben Mendelsohn is
perfectly cast as Russell, the slow-witted smack addict who
steals dogs for profit and becomes involved by chance. Scott
McNairy in a top performance plays Frankie, who recruits Russell,
after being put up to the job of holding up the card-game by
small-time crook Johnny Amato (Vincent Curatola).
that it is Markie Trattman's game (Ray Liotta is terrific in such
roles) and that Markie was responsible for holding up his own
game in the past, contributes to how this robbery plays out. The
scenes between Pitt and James Gandolfini as the hard-drinking,
womanising Mickey are especially powerful, whether sitting in a
bar or a hotel suite with a hooker. So too are those between Pitt
and McNairy, when Frankie knows his number is up.
a little while to get used to the rhythms that Dominik implements
for the narrative, and although there is plenty of 'talking', the
film does not shirk from the 'killing', which is depicted in
graphic slo-mo and effectively highlighted by the use of shock-
tactic contrasting songs such as It's Only A Paper Moon and Love
Letters. If you are looking for high octane action with bullets
flying endlessly, you may be disappointed. This is a stylish film
in which words have every bit as much impact as the bullets.
Published February 13, 2013
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KILLING THEM SOFTLY: DVD (MA15+)
CAST: Brad Pitt, Scoot McNairy, Ben Mendelsohn, James Gandolfini, Vincent Curatola, Richard Jenkins, Ray Liotta, Trevor Long, Max Casella, Sam Shepard, Slaine
PRODUCER: Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Paula May Schwartz, Steve Schwartz
DIRECTOR: Andrew Dominik
SCRIPT: Andrew Dominik (novel by George V. Higgins)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Greig Fraser
EDITOR: Brian A. Kates, John Paul Horstman (co-editor)
MUSIC: Marc Streitenfeld (piano & ambiances)
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Patricia Norris (sets)
RUNNING TIME: 97 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Hoyts
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 11, 2012
PRESENTATION: 16: 9
SPECIAL FEATURES: .
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Universal Sony Home Entertainment
DVD RELEASE: February 13, 2013
RIVERSIDE SNEAK PEEK PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release
on 4 consecutive Tuesdays - March 10, 17, 24, 31, 2015 - at Riverside Theatre,
Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to
follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.