Killing Them Softly

Killing Them Softly

(Andrew Dominik, 2012)

Rating: 4/5

Reviewed by Dave Lancaster

: Owing plenty to America's harsh 70s cinema, 'Killing Them Softly' is the grittiest credit-crunch thriller around.

'Killing Them Softly' feels about 40 years old, right at place alongside brutal crime thrillers of the 70s like 'The Friends of Eddie Coyle', 'Taxi Driver', 'The French Connection' and 'Serpico'. If 'Drive' was this generation's ultimate 80s throwback, 'Killing Them Softly' is in the running for the 70s granite and leather crown. And that's no bad thing.

It doesn't reveal itself to the audience easily though, thanks to a sledgehammer delivery of political commentary on the 2008 US election that runs alongside the film, somewhat jerkily.

But let's start at the beginning. Here's the plot: Well-liked mobster Markie Trattman (Ray Liotta) organises the robbery of his own card game and gets away with it. When the dust settles in post-hurricane, mid-credit crunch New Orleans, he admits it was him, but is given a pass - no harm no foul. Johnny Amato (Vincent Curatola) gets onto the wise idea to rob his next poker game and everyone will think Markie did it again, so he recruits two losers (Ben Mendelsohn & Scott McNairy) to do the deed. Cue one of cinema's most tense heists.

Now enter Jackie Cogan (Brad Pitt). He's above all this. He's been hired by a middle man (Richard Jenkins) from the cash-strapped local mob who are incapable of making decisions thanks to their ineffectual, penny-pinching business model. Cogan has to tie up loose ends and isn't helped by a fellow hitman (an Oscar worthy supporting turn from James Gandolfini) who has fallen from grace, hitting booze and women with ease but falling short of his paid-for targets by a mile.

As is typical with the mob sub-genre, the plot takes its twists and turns which director Andrew Dominik (who previously guided Pitt in 'The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford') hands well, making each character feel both human and also dangerously expendable.

Dominik's style is staggering. A heroin trip and a beating scene are unforgettable, as his cocktail of musical styles that include rough, bleak country (Johnny Cash's 'The Man Comes Around') and jazz vocal dance hall standards ('(It's Only A) Paper Moon'). At the forefront is Pitt, who puts in a remarkable performance that plays to his strength and adds new range to his CV (can this really be the same guy who was in 'Inglourious Basterds', 'The Tree of Life' and 'Moneyball' within the space of two years?).

After its 90 minutes whiz by 'Killing Them Softly' doesn't feel as epic or majestic as 'Jesse James' did. Instead it arrives and departs like a blunt trauma to the back of the head - it'll either shock you into a reaction or leave you out cold.

The fantastic theatrical trailer for 'Killing Them Softly' is HERE at Cinemas Online.

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