Killing Them Softly is the latest film by character study mastermind Andrew Dominik, who previously smashed the proverbial film-making ball out of the park with Brad Pitt on The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford. Killing Them Softly is Dominik’s heavily stylized adaptation of George V. Higgins‘ 1974 seminal crime novel; “Cogan’s Trade“, which centres on a mob enforcer (Pitt) sent to Boston to take out a few petty criminals who knocked over a high stakes underworld poker game.
The film also features James Gandolfini, Richard Jenkins and Ray Liotta. It’s a welcome sight for many to see Gandolfini return to playing a New York gangster à la The Sopranos (New Jersey is close enough), and Richard Jenkins seems to be his extremely dependable self (he was amazing in The Visitor). The most satisfying part of all of this is the repeated beatings that Ray Liotta seems to endure; I like to pretend they’re retribution for some of his recent career choices e.g. his baffling inclusion in Uwe Boll‘s horrendous In The Name Of The King: A Dungeon Siege Tale. The latest trailer is in preparation for the impending North American release date and is a shorter and snappier version of the previous trailer.
Killing Them Softly looks to be a great addition to the pulpy crime genre for noir and thriller fans alike. The performances seem great and the cinematography looks beautiful and stark, despite the bleak setting. Killing Them Softly isn’t your ordinary crime film though, in true Dominik fashion it’s an intelligent piece of cinema that levels its ire at the American government and corporate corruption. It’s about the financial crisis. Brad Pitt in an interview had this to say about the film’s social commentary:
“In a way, it’s a call for responsible capitalism. But Andrew wanted to juxtapose that idea with the financial crisis and effects of that because there’s an interesting psychology at play in terms of who we are and what we do when given too much room. It started out in the ’90s, under Clinton, with the good intentions of ‘Everyone should own a house and have a shot at the American dream.’ So you open up doors to make that possible by giving people these loans. Then, Bush comes in and deregulates everything, so there’s no one at the helm, and it becomes easier to take advantage of it because there’s no accountability. And then you know what happened from there—a lot of people got hurt. But it also says something about the nature of greed and what can happen when we don’t look beyond that. At the end of the day, what it says is that we can’t trust ourselves, that we need some governing body. I mean, people knew where things were heading–clearly, we got to the point where banks were actually betting against the very people they were giving these loans to.
“…And, by the way, most people’s daily lives are just about surviving. Their lives are about making the weekly nothing and taking the kids out on a Sunday. Most people don’t have time to really study the issues. And the media could help us, but there’s capitalistic interest in the media outlets as well,..the Internet has done a wonderful thing for us. But democracy doesn’t work unless people are well informed, and I don’t know that we are. People just don’t have the time.”
For more information on how Killing Them Softly‘s political content is worked into the film, as well as a glowing review from one of my favourite British critics, check out this video: