Oh, I SO wanted to like this flick. When I first got wind of Brad Pitt re-teaming with the director of (the under-seen) The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford (2007) for a modern day crime movie, I was really intrigued. When it finally hit, the word-of-mouth was decidedly mixed. Usually my interest in a film actually climbs when it’s not a unanimous ‘win’ across the board, so I knew that I’d be giving it a shot eventually. Based on a book called Cogans Trade, the flick follows the consequences of the armed robbery of a mob-controlled gambling den by a pair of small-time scum bags. The upper echelon of the mob sends in one of their most reliable enforcers, Cogan (played by Brad Pitt) to make things right. This has all the makings of a great gangster film but it is unfortunately not. First off, aside from some inspired bits of action and violence, Killing Them Softly is mostly pretty boring. Long stretches of time are spent on dialogue that never really seems to go anywhere. Sometimes, in the right hands (lookin at YOU, Tarantino),dialogue-driven scenes can play out like pure art. But here, it just feels pointless. The biggest perpetrator of this would come in the form of an associate of Cogans named Mickey, played like a complete asshole by James Gandolfini. Mickey turns up partway in for a specific purpose, and DOESN’T DO A DAMN THING! He gets loaded and gives these long-winded and pointless speeches to Pitts character, speeches that boil down to NOTHING meaningful to the damn story. Another thing that the critics jumped on was the overuse of sound ‘bites’ from the 2008 United States Presidential Election. Everywhere, in nearly every scene we either see footage or hear broadcast snippets of speech and policy. It also serves no real purpose aside from very obviously ‘dating’ the flick. On the plus side, they have managed to do a good job creating a ‘run-down’ atmosphere for the flick. Everything feels dirty and polluted in this one, even the characters. When the time comes for people to get softly killed, yeah…it’s really not THAT soft. There are some brutal and sudden deaths here, including a gorgeously-shot slow-mo sequence involving a Browning Hi-Power 9mm, a number of cars, rain, shattered glass and flying blood…oh, and Ray Liotta. But that’s not enough to save this poorly paced, somewhat self-indulgent exercise in ‘mood’. There are some good performances and elements and if that’s all that you need from a film, you could do worse. But if you want a brisk, tightly-told movie that instantly catches your interest…and holds it, then you could do better.
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