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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
15
Cast
Scoot McNairy
Ben Mendelsohn
Richard Jenkins
James Gandolfini
Ray Liotta
Brad Pitt.
Directors
Andrew Dominik.
Screenwriters
Andrew Dominik.
Running Time
97 minutes

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Killing Them Softly
Crime doesn't pay (much)


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Plot
Smalltime crook Frankie (McNairy) and his junkie friend Russell (Mendelsohn) are hired to hold up a high-stakes card game run by local gangster Markie Trattman (Liotta). Markie is the obvious suspect, but the victims bring in outside enforcer Jackie Cogan (Pitt) to find the culprits.


Review
Killing Them Softly
The last time Brad Pitt and Andrew Dominik worked together it resulted in the tremendous 2007 neo-Western The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford. So what would happen second time around, when they were to reunite for a latter-day gangster movie set in the shadow of the handover of America from President George W. Bush to Barack Obama in 2008?

After the rarefied Assassination, with its rich period detail and earthy palette, Killing Them Softly seems rather grey and even ordinary. It bypasses the last 20 years of post-Tarantino gangster movies to recall David Mamet’s 1975 play American Buffalo, itself a meditation on recession-era crime and punishment. The Mamet-like dialogue is the most telling example of what’s not quite right. Dominik has a cast of excellent American actors here, but most seem to be in service to a script that isn’t quite as sharp and perceptive as it thinks it is. Music (and sound itself) is a secondary problem. Throughout the film, TV sets blast out bulletins from rolling news channels, providing a crude running commentary on the larger world. The music choices (The Velvet Underground’s Heroin for a narcotic state) are equally clunky.

Surprisingly, then, Killing Them Softly does, just about, work. Key to this is yet another superb turn from Pitt, playing another of his indignant outsider antiheroes: movie-star cool, noir-thriller weary and yet driven by something recognisable and psychologically real. It’s Pitt who sells this movie as he navigates the mess he’s been brought into, a world where gangsters rob their own illegal card games just for a laugh, and where hired hitmen, once the samurai-like loners of bygone days, have become flabby, broken-down, unreliable losers.

Killing Them Softly doesn’t quite know what it’s about. There should be more to it, and though it achieves more in failing than most movies do in succeeding, it’s just sad to report that it says as little about the present, complex state of America as it does.


Verdict
A good, efficient crime thriller, let down by clunky social commentary but lifted by excellent performances, including perhaps Brad Pitt’s recent best.


Reviewed by Damon Wise

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Killing Them Softly
Empire Star Rating

RE: "America is not a country... it's a buisness."

The dialogue is sharp and so are the performances. Andrew Dominik directed this neo-noir in a low-key comic style that's alternately gritty and fancy. The gritty stuff is best. ... More

Posted by chang at 11:59, 31 December 2013 | Report This Post


RE: "America is not a country... it's a buisness."

Despite a running time of just over an hour and a half the film barely has enough plot to fill that, and as has been mentioned, resorts to a lot of pointless conversations to try and establish character depth. The pacing is a bit all over the place (compare the realtively languid first 20 odd minutes to the rather rushed last 20) and the whole thing is a bit choppy. There are a few supporting characters that are talked about a lot but we only get to see them briefly, so their impact on the ov... More

Posted by Vitamin F at 10:35, 09 October 2013 | Report This Post


"America is not a country... it's a buisness."

Although a fascinating film, expertly made, Killing Them Softly never seems to come to a satisfying conclusion... exhilarating moments (the heist, Jackie Cogan's (Pitt) intro and subsequent assassinations of the culprits, etc.) are interspersed with languorous conversations that do seemingly little in the way of story progression or character development. That said, this is a must-see film and one of the best of 2012... conversely, the whole isn't as satisfying as the sum of its parts. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by movienut707 at 00:18, 24 September 2013 | Report This Post


"America is not a country... it's a buisness."

Although a fascinating film, expertly made, Killing Them Softly never seems to come to a satisfying conclusion... exhilarating moments (the heist, Jackie Cogan's (Pitt) intro and subsequent assassinations of the culprits, etc.) are interspersed with languorous conversations that do seemingly little in the way of story progression or character development. That said, this is a must-see film and one of the best of 2012... conversely, the whole isn't as satisfying as the sum of its parts. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by movienut707 at 00:18, 24 September 2013 | Report This Post


DECENT ENOUGH!!

A dark and brooding crime thriller from director Andrew Dominik! After some unsettling and abrubt title sequence we are introduced to smalltime crooks Frankie (Scoot McNairy) and his junkie friend (Ben Mendelsohn) who are both hired to rob gangster Markie Trattman (Ray Liotta). Trouble is, this causes an economic mess within the criminal syndicate, so hitman Jackie (Bradd Pitt) is hired to clean up the mess,... It's stylish stuff,...check out one incredible sequence where Jackie does a h... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Ramone87 at 20:23, 29 April 2013 | Report This Post


Best film of 2012

Really misunderstood film, much like the previous Jesse James. With the political undertones dampened, they would be lost within the film's potently disconcerting milieu of a run-down New Orleans. The themes prevalent in the story were gripped tight against Dominik's palm - Killing Them Softly is proof that there are supreme director's still at play in Western film whose initials don't have to be P, T and A. Some of the greatest camerawork, editing tricks and stylisation of the past decade, or i... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by FoxDhoj at 03:26, 30 March 2013 | Report This Post


Misunderstood Masterpiece -

A small time gangster film rooted in the real world where there are real consequences for ones actions - Set alongside the financial collapse & Obama's first Election it strips away America as a society and shows us only america as a business - ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by bobbyperu at 13:32, 04 March 2013 | Report This Post


Rice Pudding Setting

Watching this was like watching skin form on a rice pudding, if I had paid at the cinema to view it I would have asked for a refund. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Cyborgigy at 10:22, 24 January 2013 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

Just gets away with being a decent movie despite terrible pacing and Brad in the same old shit mode! The supporting cast is superb. ... More

Posted by Dannybohy at 09:07, 07 January 2013 | Report This Post


RE:

Killing Them Softly WARNING!ith a cast of stars including Pitt, Gandolfini and Liotta and based on a crime novel involving the mafia, hits and heists you would expect this to be excellent, so is it? yes! well no, hmmm...errr yeeaah...kinda. The plot in this film is really very simple and pretty thin. Ray Liotta's character sets up his own poker ring operation for the loot and gets away with it scot free. Sometime later two losers do the same thing to Liotta's poker ring and they get ... More

Posted by Phubbs at 06:54, 07 January 2013 | Report This Post


Tiresome, cliched, no real story line, and desperately trying to hint on a deeper, political/social meaning that doesn't fit in with the feel of the film. A few good performances but overall, disappointingly numb ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by danfacey711 at 22:40, 29 December 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Killing Them Softly

As an unshowy, not in the least bit wise-guy mob movie this is more than decent. Dominik does appear to be on quite a mission to make a film about "now" and gladly accepting that this will also date his film in a couple of years he wants very much for Them Softlynd up and be counted in a look back of the new recession era. There are more subtle ways that this could be nominated, but I felt like an inmate at an old people's home who is wheeled in front of CNN and left with the brake on and no... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by demoncleaner at 22:39, 01 October 2012 | Report This Post


great cast, terrible film

terrible film best avoided at all costs..... ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by HERMES_67 at 22:05, 26 September 2012 | Report This Post


Political Gangster?

First off, is this a good movie? Yes it is a good, fun , great looking film. Does it have it's faults? Of course. However the good outweighs the bad, only just. Let's start with the good. The main attraction here is the acting calibre, with great acting from James Gandolfini, Ben Mendelsohn, and Ray Liotta. The two that stand out the most are Brad Pitt and Scoot McNairy, both give Oscar worthy performances. Brad Pitt, who plays a hitman, who doesn't like to get too up-close-and-personal. Her... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Blairsav at 20:20, 25 September 2012 | Report This Post


What is the appeal of this film?

Ended up watching this film last night after seeing reviews using words like "black comedy, action thriller, Pitt's best performance yet...". What I seemed to miss in the reviews was "needlessly bloody, violent, drug addled, politically misdirected and depressing". The only saving grace to this film was the acting, which was excellent throughout. As for everything else, it was like being forced to watch someone being gradually ground into the ground screaming and bleedin... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by hamsterminator at 14:08, 24 September 2012 | Report This Post


Oddly paced, but worth a watch.

I have rarely marveled, or indeed had such time to marvel, at someone being shot through the head. Beautifully filmed in some places, brilliantly scripted in others, but lots of talking and an 'eclectic' soundtrack does not a Quentin, make. Although I 'did' enjoy Killing them Softly, and despite the fine work of everyone on-screen, the potential is there for it to be so much better… ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by TheMightyBlackout at 20:41, 23 September 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Great Cast

Very solid downbeat thriller. Its didn't quite pack the same punch as Jesse James. Also, I found some of the musical and editing choices were a bit on-the-nose. It was a good showcase for the supporting actors; Richard Jenkins earned most of the laughs and Scoot McNairy continues to impress. Nice to see so many Sopranos alumni in one project too. ... More

Posted by Fit Kisto at 01:41, 22 September 2012 | Report This Post


Great Cast

The assassination of jesse james was excellent, best movie of the last 10 years. For that reason im going to go see this tomorrow. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by burtbondy at 10:02, 20 September 2012 | Report This Post


Awful, awful title

Why choose something that has obvious connotations with something else. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by skippy82 at 07:20, 18 September 2012 | Report This Post


Can't wait

Haven't read the review in case of spoilers because I'm really looking forward to this. Heard good stuff from a lot of other reviews etc. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Coyleone at 20:36, 17 September 2012 | Report This Post



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