On Sunday morning a very hungover AK and I saw Killing Them Softly, the grimy new crime film by Australian director Andrew Dominik of Chopper fame. The audience is quickly introduced to two young scumbags who make the dubious choice to rob a mob-projected poker game and the film follows the repercussions for the pair as their actions undoubtedly catch up with them. It has a stellar cast including Brad Pitt, Richard Jenkins, James Gandolfini and Ray Liotta. In fact, it should be noted that there are no female characters at all, something I assume was a conscious choice that reflected the misogynistic attitudes of the central characters.
It’s bleak, it’s moody, it’s downright grim, but Killing Them Softly is also completely spot on in terms of pitch, pace and delivery. Music in the film is sparse, so after 30 minutes when Brad Pitt’s character arrives to the distinctive voice of Johnny Cash, it’s a bold statement. Cash’s lyrics to The Man Comes Around are a pretty accurate depiction of Pitt’s hit-man character Jackie when he sings:
There’s a man going around taking names
And he decides who to free and who to blame
Everybody won’t be treated all the same
Dominik has a beautiful way with violence and several of his slow motion, ultra gruesome scenes were just made for the big screen. In a true example of how this film will split viewers, several members of the audience left our cinema in disgust after a particularly brutal scene involving a beating, but those that remained likely adored the final product as much as we did.
I found it quite interesting that the film was set against the backdrop of the 2008 televised US Presidential speeches by candidate (at the time) Barack Obama and the incumbent George Bush, almost as if Dominik was having a cynical stab at the American dream. Economic times are tough and even hit-men are having to take a pay cut.
Killing Them Softly is rated MA and not for the faint of heart.