Killing Them Softly

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It’s fun when you’re watching a movie that has dumb criminals trying to plan something. You know it’s going to go south and you’re eagerly anticipating just how bad things are going to get.

killing them softly

I shoot this loud gun a lot in the movie…and cops never seem to show up.

The three dumb guys in this plan on robbing a card game run by the mob, where the stakes are high. The game is run by Ray Liotta’s character. Nobody plays a slime ball (or member of the mob), quite like Liotta. What makes these dopes think they’ll get away with it is that Liotta has a history of having his games robbed, and he foolishly admitted this once. They figure all the blame will land on his lap.

The two young dummies are played by Scott McNairy (Argo). He played naïve perfectly, right down to the tone of his voice. His partner in crime was Australian actor Ben Mendelsohn (Animal Kingdom). He’s a smacked out loser that always looks in need of a shower.

When things go wrong, wonderful character actor Richard Jenkins brings in a hit man. It’s played by his partner in crime from Burn After Reading – Brad Pitt. I’ve always said Pitt was a great actor, but I didn’t think his performance in Moneyball deserved an Oscar nomination; and I don’t think he didn’t anything in this we haven’t seen before. He’s a killer that wants to philosophize about life, and what it’s like to kill people. It’s funny because so many of these crime dramas and gangster pictures write scenes like this that don’t work. Sometimes they can nail it; Goodfellas, for example. Sometimes it can be one small scene where a character is talking about all the people they killed, and it’s chilling. I’m thinking about Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven.

Speaking of westerns, director Andrew Dominiks gave us the slow The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (also starring Brad Pitt). You certainly won’t be bored watching this, but you won’t see anything ground breaking. It’s a bunch of one-dimensional characters.

I would’ve loved to see more Sam Shepard (or had him add to the screenplay). I did love the few scenes with James Gandolfini, as the aging hit man that’s more interested in booze and broads.

This film is based on the book Cogan’s Trade, which took place in Boston in the ‘70s. The film is in New Orleans, and the Louisiana locations, looking like a wasteland (from crime and Katrina) – were all shot beautifully (no pun intended).

One of the problems I had with this movie is it becomes Tarantino-lite. Quentin Tarantino can make movies like True Romance, Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction – where criminals sit around having interesting one-on-one conversations about various topics. In this movie only a handful work. And don’t even get me started on the idiotic talk about the economy and the state of the country, with clips of Obama and Bush talking (the film takes place right before that presidential election). I rolled my eyes a few times at the metaphors.

I complained in my review of Flight about Denzel walking into bars and they’re always playing news shows that talked about his plane crash, instead of the sports you usually see on TVs in a bar. In this, the mobsters apparently like to play cards with C-SPAN or CNN on in the background.

Sometimes it was interesting watching a long shot of the guys preparing, and then walking in the back of the building where the card game was taking place. More times I was bothered by the things I’ve seen before. That could be old, rusted cars with doors that are squeaky. It could be something as stylish as a shooting at close range, done in slow motion, with colorful splashes of blood. That’s interesting; but it was interesting when I saw it done in Bound about 15 years ago (a movie I highly recommend).

Oh, and when Pitt first shows up, the camera just shows his boots stepping out of the car and walking down a dirt road – while a Johnny Cash song plays.

Another song we hear on the radio is when a woman is driving, although I can’t recall her character in the film. It’s Dusty Springfield doing Windmills of my Mind. Great song, but it belongs to The Thomas Crown Affair. Come on! In Skyfall, the helicopter didn’t come in to attack Bond while blasting Wagner.

And what made the filmmaker think it would be clever to play the Velvet Underground’s Heroin while Mendelsohn is shooting up?

I’m guessing most people will enjoy this movie, even with it being a bit uneven. Just be prepared for a very violent and misogynistic picture.

I’m giving it 2 ½ stars out of 5.

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