Killing Them Softly (2012)

Killing Them Softly (2012)I remember hearing about Killing Them Softly (2012) a dark thriller which got the attention of Mark Kermode. Sadly I never got around to catching it on its initial release. I’ve made up for it now and it was worth the wait too. A stylistically dark looking into America’s underworld just as the economy had crashed, the race to the white house was is well underway too. And order needs to be restored after a protected gambling ring is robbed, people are going to pay, not in money but in blood.

Two dumb guys Frankie (Scoot McNairy) and Russell (Ben Mendelsohn) are sent on a job that could have been avoided. Men who are no more than low-lives more bothered about getting high really. Acting under orders to rob a protected card game run by Markie Trattman (Ray Liotta) who had already had his fair share of trouble in recent times. The robbery is only a taster of the violence we are in for. Russell and Frankie somehow rob Trattman and the men, made easier by Trattman who practically hands over the money, whilst offering away. The hold-up is shoddy and amateurish and it shows, creating for a tense a scene that goes unfolds. One that determines the rest of the film.

What follows is the complicated demise of the men involved in this one robbery, a robbery they wish they’s never even started. When an unnamed man (Richard Jenkins) brings to town complex killer for hire Jackie (Brad Pitt) who already knows some of the men to kill them. He can’t do it alone, needing the assistance from old friend Mickey (James Gandolfini) who flies in.

As much as this is a violent film, there is in fact very little of it time-wise. Most of our time is spent listening to these men put the world to rights. Understanding the psychology behind what they do. Making the build-up to violence very necessary to give us a break from all the dialogue which is delivered. And when we do receive it, its both painful and a sense of relief. Trattman’s shooting is stretched out into a three minute ballet movement that takes Trattman from this world to the next. Using slow-motion to create and elongate this brutal act into something quite beautiful, catching each moment in minute detail. Its something to behold. We think we have seen this a thousand times before on film, but never so heightened to a level where is becomes horrific by it’s close.

That scene alone is as both technically in terms of character as it in in post-production of the scene, allowing us to understand how powerful it is to take another persons life. How it can be seen as a brutal act and one of great skill, seeing each bullet impact, causing great damage and death. We never get that level of violence again, becoming more of a thriller, waiting for that moment of the trigger being pulled, We who’s getting it but when we don’t find out till it’s over in a flash.

As much as this film is dark you can get bored if inly slightly by the weight of the dialogue which both raising this gangster thriller to another level, whilst also holding it back. You want action, violence, not just men complaining about the world, how the economy is messing around with their empires. Where the weight of the film holds it down, technically it feels lighter. The transitions feel effortless at times. They maybe planned or just coincidence it doesn’t really matter we are left moving from one moment with ease that transports you around this murky film.

There are great performances by both Pitt and Gandolfini who just both talk, old friends who keep each other in check. Jackie is a man of great contradiction, in one breath he will kill a man but he won’t rob another, he knows his limits. Whilst Mickey is over his best, under surveillance, more bothered about women than killing these days. A shadow of his former self yet still respected. I am starting to respect the nuance of Gandolfini’s performances, however typecast he became in his roles, he gave them depth and dimension. Whilst Pitt who leads the film is placed more on the side-lines. It’s more his influence of those around him which has greater impact.

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2 responses

  1. Hi Tim.
    I downloaded this movie, but after a few minutes decided I was not going to wade through it. It may be well done? but …. there seemed to a quite a few similar flavoured movies at the time. If I don’t like or relate with anybody in the movie – non stop profanity and bloodshed – I just can’t be bothered. If I don’t care about the characters or what happens to them, it’s sort of like a hockey game that’s filled with fights – it might be entertaining for a while, but at some point you have to decide it’s Sport/Art – or not. I don’t buy the thinking that vulgarity well done, is Art.
    That’s just me though. That’s also why I’m not a Tarantino fan.
    i’m not wanting to criticize anybody, but I hope you understand my view.

    January 31, 2015 at 5:06 pm

    • Of course I understand you. If I’m honest I start a film and only stick with it If I feel engage for a number of reasons, is the film engaging, do I care for the characters, do I understand the plot. Violence for me is something that has to be done in the right way. Here it was stylised, to heighten the brutality of it. I admit the language was strong, at times and I just switched off from it. I know where your coming from. Obviously not your cup of tea which is fair enough. Je suis charlie.

      January 31, 2015 at 8:16 pm

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