johnlink ranks KILLING THEM SOFTLY (2012)

Maybe I’m too nice, but I wasn’t planning on watching this on the plane during my trip back from Denver. You never know who is going to be in your row, and I wasn’t sure what to expect from this, other than that I assumed it might be a violent hard-R rated film. But my rental of THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH took way too long to download using the anciently slow wi-fi in the Denver airport (even after a two hour flight delay) so this was all I had left on the iPad. I had an amicable enough guy sitting next to me, so I figured I could get through this fairly innocently enough.


I watched KILLING THEM SOFTLY (2012) on 7.20.13. It was my first viewing of the film.

This movie gives us the none too subtle juxtaposition of a gritty mob fallout due to the crippling of their underground card games versus the glossy world of the American financial bailout and ensuing election of Obama to the presidency. The public domain clips of Bush and Obama are woven throughout the narrative, brilliantly in the opening scene, and less effectively (due to its forwardness) as the film moves on. Ultimately, we get one clunky final scene which screams ‘HERE’S OUR THEME’ in the film’s last moments. It’s a little bit unfortunate that we had to be so clearly led by the hand through this movie, because the plot here is satisfying in its own right. I even appreciate the message it was providing, and feel like its one which needs messaging. I just wish the execution (no pun intended) was a little more nuanced.

A couple of young guys (Scoot McNairy and Ben Mendelsohn) knock off a card game run by Markie (Ray Liotta). Problem is, Marky admitted to knocking off his own card game years ago, so now the mob has no choice but to plan the execution of everyone involved. Only, it is not that simple. The mob is no longer a guy or two. The mob is a board of directors, the face of which is the unnamed Richard Jenkins who serves as liaison to the Wolf-like character of Jackie (Brad Pitt). Jackie has a clear and simple way of cleaning the mess up, but his liaison needs to run everything back to the group to see what gets approved and what tweeks they have for the plan before they can come back and say yes. Getting involved, as an ineffective outsourcing of the work, is formerly reliable Mickey (the late James Gandolfini). Mickey used to be effective, but women, alcohol, and age have rendered him impotent as someone who can get things done, even if he still stays in the game (and sleeps with hookers).

Some of the parallels to our financial system, politicians, and the nature of those running the country become pretty apparent fairly quickly. Jenkins represents the nameless bankers who run everything from behind the scenes. He talks in ambiguous language and lets others do the dirty work. Mickey is the past-his-prime politician who is good for nothing but inept scandalous behavior. Pitt’s Jackie may be harder to peg because he serves justice to those who commit wrongdoings and those who are merely perceived to. He serves Jenkins’ character, but also alludes to a higher moral authority. He doesn’t go after the system, but he complains about it as he works within it.

Maybe he is us. I don’t know.

Regardless, the story of this movie is gripping. It’s dark and brutal. Death happens in slow motion and with excessive force. Beatings come with sickening sounds of breaking bones. Irrelevance is introduced in a number of ways: through death, through booze, through hookers, and maybe even through the realization that none of it means anything in the big picture.

This isn’t a perfect movie. It’s heavy-handed in parts, and slightly slow in others. But it is a movie which has a unique tone (sometimes quiet, sometimes quiet boisterous) and which isn’t afraid to look at the world of crime, drugs, and violence and suggest none of it is too far from home. This is an ambitious movie, and you have to at least give it credit for that.





~ by johnlink00 on July 22, 2013.

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