Killing Them Softly (2012) – 3.5/5


Clunky, overly talky mess with a few great moments here and there and some of the most extreme, stomach turning violence I’ve ever seen in a mainstream film. Truly disturbing, disgusting stuff, some of which unfolds in such graphic slow motion as to be practically sadistic in nature. It’s cool for the first few seconds, but once the novelty wears off it becomes quite the unpleasant sight. Yuck. I guess showing violence in such a graphic manner is the best way to portray it on film; not as this cool, hip, fun thing, but as this horrifying, utterly repulsive act that should be avoided at all costs. But still, yikes.

The film itself is a huge mess, though. Long, pointless scenes of dialogue that go on and on, cheap, film-school type camera tricks/cinematography, pretty mediocre acting from just about everyone except maybe James Gandolfini, but his character is pretty damn pointless story-wise anyway so it doesn’t really matter. And it’s not like his role here is that much of a stretch for him; he’s essentially only ever played variations of his Tony Soprano character in just about every movie he’s been in, and he’ll probably continue to do so for the rest of his career. He can’t help it: he is Tony Soprano. There’s no disconnecting him from the role, and there probably never will be. The only actor I really liked actually, surprisingly, was Ray Liotta, who does play a somewhat different character here than what we’re used to seeing. And man, **SPOILERS** what a disturbing death. One of the most excessively graphic slow motion kills I’ve ever seen. And the beating he gets early in the film is just disgusting. My stomach was doing flips. **END SPOILERS**

The main problem with the film, other than the long, talky scenes and pointless characters, is its insistence on shoving its flimsy political/economic metaphor down our throats every step of the way. I understand that many of the characters here are supposed to be **SPOILERS** representations of various political figures or groups, and some of the things that happen are reflections of events that took place as a result of the actions of said political figures and groups, which is why there is so much pointless dialogue and why it does seem like some characters serve no purpose, **END SPOILERS** but they’re shaky metaphors at best.

My interpretation of the film is that **SPOILERS** the cleaner guy who arranges the “job” is Osama Bin Laden, the two “thugs” he hires are variations of Al-Qaeda, the robbery is 9-11, Ray Liotta’s character, who gets the blame and is ultimately killed despite not really having had anything to do with it, is Saddam Hussein, Richard Jenkins is US politicians or the US government, James Gandolfini is the US military, who was once this mighty power but is now a shell of his/its former self, and Brad Pitt is the will of the American people. **END SPOILERS** Maybe. It’s all very hazy and forced and mostly open to interpretation, but that’s what I got out of it.

Overall, not a great film, not anything I particularly enjoyed save a few scenes here and there, but it’s not all bad if you go into it knowing that it’s supposed to be symbolic of our current political and economic climate. But as a straight forward narrative crime thriller, it’s a complete failure, and a step down for Andrew Dominik, the director, who made the brilliant  “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” a few years ago. The man knows what he’s doing, yet even from a strictly visual standpoint the film is a self-indulgent mess at times, like something a guy straight out of film school would make. Not sure what happened here. Still, it tried to do something new, and for that, it should be given credit.

    • Nando
    • December 13th, 2012

    I definitely got a whole “this is based on 9-11” vibe from it. Thanks for pointing that out as I’m sure others noticed it as well but were too chicken shit to comment about it.

    I’m not sure if your roles are accurate but they do make sense…

    • Thanks. I don’t know if my labels are completely on the dot either; I know I said Gandolfini represented the US military, but after thinking about it a bit his character might actually be symbolic of the CIA and the FBI. It’s all wild speculation, though. Who knows, really, save the writer.

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