Killing Them Softly is a crime drama/dark comedy starring Brad Pitt, Ray Liotta, Richard Jensen and Tony Soprano himself, James Gandolfini. Now that is a pretty solid cast billing for any film, crime or comedy. Sadly despite having a braggadocious cast this particular film does not deliver a very entertaining or interesting movie experience.
The film begins with Frankie and Russell, who are hired by John Amato (The Sopranos‘ Johnny Sack) to hold up a mob card game. Amato plans that the robbery will go off without a hitch because everyone will assume that Markie Trattman (Liotta) is behind it, having pulled a similar heist before. The two schmucks make off with the cash and go on a bender or two. Enter Driver (Jensen), who hires Jackie Cogan (Pitt) to settle this whole mess and figure out who was really behind the heist. Cogan knows that it wasn’t Markie, but they’ve got to make an example of him, as well as the actual culprits, so they hire hitman Mickey (Gandolfini.) For a hired gun, Mickey seems to do less of the killing and more of the drinking and screwing. Near the end of the film Cogan is faced with the task of finding Frankie and Russell as well as figuring out what to do with their liquored hitman Mickey.
On average, Killing Them Softly is being well received critically. Entertainment Weekly‘s Owen Gleiberman called it “a mesmerizing tale of kill-or-be-killed capitalist desperation.” To Gleiberman’s point, there is an interesting infusion of political white noise from the 2008 Presidential Election that seems to be the driving force of the film. This is embodied by the last line of dialogue in the film, which may be one of the best last lines I’ve heard in a movie in a long time. Despite this, I found Killing Them Softly to be nothing but an absolute disappointment, critics be damned. Written and directed by Andrew Dominik (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford), the film has the violence and profanity you’d expect from any gangster flick, but is buried under boring dialogue about people and places that we are never introduced to. At one point Pitt’s character comes to confront Gandolfini’s, asking him why he hasn’t been doing his job. Gandolfini proceeds to go on one of the aforementioned drawn-out tirades as you beg for Pitt to interrupt him and put you out of your misery.
With appearances by Vincent Curatola, Max Casella and James Gandolfini, this film made me really miss the world and characters of , a far superior tale of crime and (often) comedy. Killing Them Softly comes off like a poorly-executed Coen Brothers’ film with a finite number of laughs, little tension or danger and no clear protagonists or goals. To say that it is a horrible film would be a disservice. Transformers: Dark of the Moon is a horrible film. Killing Them Softly is a severely mediocre film.
Final Grade: ★★½ 2.5/5