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Film Review: Killing Them Softly

6th October 2012

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Cinema visits often present the problem of the mid-film toilet trip forcing you to miss key moments. It says something for the propulsion of Killing Them Softly that it forced me to stay put throughout.

Killing Them SoftlySo, that's probably not the most dignified way to sum up a film, but then Killing Them Softly isn't really about the most dignified of characters. 

The main thrust of the plot revolves around two down-and-out criminals who hit up an illegal betting joint with the intention of pinning the crime on its owner, played by a particularly worm-like Ray Liotta. But soon enough the higher-ups who own the betting ring send in Brad Pitt, a hit man and fixer for the mob, to sort out the whole mess and kill the right people. While all of this is going on, the 2008 presidential election campaigns are underway in the background, leading to a direct paralleling between the small time theft of a card game and the financial discussions of the western world.

The narrative pulse beats at just the right momentum for the political discussions and the gangster talk to never drag or draw too much focus away from the central action. It probably helps that the film's director, Andrew Dominik of Chopper fame, knows just when to throw in some particularly stylish elements that help maintain interest.

Throw in some amazing performances - James Gandolfini is especially arresting - as well as a script that is packed with reprehensibly filthy dialogue and an effective pitch black sense of humour, and you should have all of the constitutive elements for a winning cinematic formula, but there was something that just didn't sit right.

The allegorical nature of Killing Them Softly, pitching small-time crooks as exactly the same as fat cat bankers and politicians, is simply far too explicit to leave any sort of satisfaction after viewing.

As political debates and speeches blare out of radios and Obama discusses the financial climate on the televisions that litter the movie’s dirty bars, it's difficult not to feel that the director isn't so much bashing you over the head with its views as getting a views-shaped sledgehammer and pummelling your head in completely.

Despite its precise and impressively lean narrative running time, its agenda pushing leaves a slightly bitter taste in the mouth, leaving no room for confusion of its point. So while it's entertaining and brimming with a Scorcese-eque style while it lasts, its ideological principals are presented in such a blunt manner that they don't allow the audience to have even the slightest amount of independent thought, and leave you thinking very little about it afterwards.

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