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Killing Them Softly

December 12, 2012

Killing them softly movie poster




“This isn’t a country, this is America. And America is a business.”

Killing Them Softly is an interesting experiment. It dives into the financial crisis of 2008 and features a plethora of alcoholics, killers and mid level mafia negotiators. The film is an adaptation of George Higgins 1974 book Cogan’s Trade. A book that the New York Times described as  “the seamy nether-world of the savage seventies.” Here is it transported to the financial dealings of the 2000s. It hammers home the message and somewhere along the way Ray Liotta’s character has been compared to Saddam Hussein. The film has unfairly earned a “F” cinemascore from movie goers. I’d wager people were expecting an action packed gangster film but instead got a plethora of conversations and Gandolfini’s heavy breathing. I appreciated the film but watching an Australian director and various millionaires tell us about the economy isn’t ideal.

The majority of the press has been centered around Brad Pitt’s icy cool Jackie Cogan. He is a killer who blends in among the muck yet never gets dirty. He kills but is never killed. He exists with the worst but never gets dragged down. He also says some very cool things.

Killing Them Softly quote




What surprises me is that none of the critics have been talking about Scoot McNairy (Monsters, Argo) and Ben Mendelsohn (Animal Kingdom). They are the life of this film and create some of the most memorable characters of 2012. Their card game robbery sets the film in motion and sets the bar so high so early that the rest of Killing Them Softly has a hard time maintaining.

Killing them softly two guys




You can smell the stink coming off of these guys. Their conversations are hilarious and Mendlesohn’s telling of his trip to Florida to sell stolen dogs is hilarious. It features a fantastic scene where they try to light a car on fire and it shoots forward and hits one of the unlucky crooks. Their unearned confidence almost gets them killed. The come up with a dumb plan to make money, get away with it and it almost gets them killed.

The film goes off the rails whenever James Gandolfini is on screen. He is a fantastic actor but his character brings the film to a crawl and makes you want more Ben and Scoot. He is an aging alcoholic whom Pitt brings in to kill a mark. The problem is that his heavy breathing and slow speech hurt the soul and fill the ears with talk about what will happen if his wife divorces him.

I’d recommend the film for Ben Mendelsohn and Scoot McNairy’s performances. They are two men who can hold the screen and excel in supporting roles. Watching Scoot interrogate a stoned Mendelsohn is a marvel of cheeky characters and witty dialogue.

Killing them softly scoot




Killing Them Softly is not easy. It can infuriate many, excite a few and entertain those who understand it.

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