Yet another gangland film, or a cynical look at corporate America? That is the question one asks when watching the latest crime novel adaptation, Killing Them Softly
This grey and dreary look at the low-lives of the US underworld centres around the relationship between aspiring crim Frankie (Scott McNairy
) and his erratic, junkie Aussie thug acquaintance Russell (Ben Mendelsohn
, replete with thick ocker accent). For reasons of naivety or stupidity, Frankie and Russell take a punt on robbing, at gunpoint, an unlawful betting ring attended by a group of nefarious high-rollers. If all goes well, the financial gain will reward the risk; either way, the gamble brings with it serious consequences. That's where Brad Pitt
's contract killer, Jackie Cogan, comes in.
With Brad at his Twelve Monkeys
coolest as a retributive protagonist, and an all-star cast featuring the likes of James Gandolfini
and Ray Liotta
, this film's flawless performances draw you into a world that is frighteningly real, and depressingly convincing.
Shying away from the typical use of funk or soul music, Killing Them Softly
instead mostly opts for a gritty indie short-film vibe absent music, relying instead on an allegorical use of material from the 2008 US presidential elections as the likes of Obama, McCain and Bush speak out on the state of the US economy and going to war.
While the production strengths are original, they at times give the impression of an attempt to add a metaphorical depth to what could easily be viewed as a formulaic gangster movie.
To some extent, certain segments of the script perhaps give away too easily the purpose of the film – such as Jackie's reflection that the US is a "business" and a "myth created by Jefferson" – rather than taking a more understated approach.
Those criticisms aside, the tensely engaging world of filth presented here by Chopper
director Andrew Dominik
contains beauty in its darkness, and highlights certain ills that stem from a corporate mentality that takes a moral high-ground when arranging "outsiders" to do the dirty work.
While partially empty and mostly cynical, Killing Them Softly
is still a solidly produced and visually enjoyable film.
View the trailer here
In pics: Muscles, make-up and moustaches - Brad Pitt's craziest on-screen transformations