'Killing Them Softly' - It’s The Pitts

‘Killing Them Softly’ bombs on merit; ‘Red Dawn’ remake not much better

By Lori Hoffman
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 12 | Posted Dec. 5, 2012

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Brad Pitt

While one admires Brad Pitt for his desire to make small, independent movies, his taste in said endeavors has often been bad. A prime example is his latest film, Killing Them Softly, an awful drama that pretends it is a mob action movie when in fact it is a boring, meaningless talk-a-thon.

Writer-director Andrew Dominik would have faded away after his title-challenged western, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, except that he has an influential friend in his corner, Pitt. That explains why he has made another movie that is currently dropping like a stone never to be seen again. Actually I wish that was true, but in a few months when it is released on DVD, people will see the impressive cast list on the box (Pitt, James Gandolfini, Ray Liotta, Richard Jenkins, Sam Shepard) and rent it out of curiosity. They will be sorry.

Killing Them Softly certainly sounds like a mob movie. A trio of truly stupid criminals, played by Scoot McNairy, Ben Mendelsohn and Vincent Curatola, decide to rob a mob-sponsored card game. They figure they are safe because the guy running the game, Markie Trattman (Liotta), robbed it himself a few months earlier and eventually got away with just a warning. 

Gee, that sounds plausible doesn’t it?

Now these idiots figure that when they rob the game, Markie will be blamed and they will get away with it.

This is where Pitt comes in. He is the fixer, Jackie, hired to find and kill the robbers. Instead of us seeing how he does find them, we mostly see Pitt sitting around in a car or a bar talking with Jenkins, listed in the credits as “The Driver.” He talks about his philosophy of life and in a particularly rancid scene, trashes America as the place where there is no real sense of community. Instead, says Jackie, “You are on your own.”

The film also provides annoying background noise that is supposed to illuminate this tale of mob economics set in 2008. In what seems like every scene, a TV is set to the news and the talk is about how the nation’s economy is getting worse with no end in sight. Apparently, the poor mobsters are feeling the pinch as well.

If you still want to see this movie, I have obviously not done my job. Killing Them Softly has jumped to the top of my list of worst movies of 2012.

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Comments 1 - 12 of 12
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1. Shan said... on Dec 6, 2012 at 10:52PM

“Male angst, Lori. It's not a mob action movie, it's a movie about male angst. And if you can identify with it - with unemployment, divorce, burnout, falling wages and an increasing sense of powerlessness in a complex, amoral world - this is one of the best movies of 2012. I can see how it alienates kids and women, but for adult males, this "talk-a-thon" is a rich tapestry of pleasures.
I hope to have provided a counterpoint for the benefit of your male readers.

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2. Matthew McKinnon said... on Dec 8, 2012 at 01:38AM

“Now I was sure anyone who lists their likes as cats, and jigsaws would never been qualified to review movies for a news outlet, but then browsing through rottentomatoe reviews after seeing this movie I was shockingly and disappointingly surprised. What I'm not shocked by is what you failed to pick up on. And that is the absolutely stunning cinematography the Andrew Dominik brought to our attention. The unflinching violence while at the same time beauty in the moment is impossible to ignore.

What you would call "annoying backgroung noise." is actually what learned movie watchers call. A SUB TEXT. I'll spare you the details but the sub-text of the 2008 election. DIRECTLY CO-INSIDES with the happenings of the movie.

Really I need not say more than if you're expecting an "mob" film you'll be disappointed. This is far from that. It is a art film with a strong narration on capitalism and the state of not only American economy but of the world today.

Right, that sums it up.”

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3. frank said... on Dec 8, 2012 at 02:15PM

“"in a particularly rancid scene, trashes America as the place where there is no real sense of community"

You tipped your hand.

So... the film isn't 'Murrican enough for you? There weren't enough explosions? Too much talking? You sound like a cretin.

If I wasn't already planning on watching it, I'd be sure to check Killing Them Softly out after this review.

Don't worry, Lori. I'm sure Tom Cruise or Sylvester Stallone will be around shortly to provide you with some brainless, "America! Fuck yeah!" explosion fest. And if not, hey, summer's just around the corner and I'm sure Michael Bey will have something you'll enjoy.”

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4. bobw said... on Dec 8, 2012 at 05:43PM

“Yeah but as an "art " film it still sucks- pretentious and overly preachy with no subtlety. Will be liked by posers who aren't quite as smart as they think they are.”

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5. Richie said... on Dec 12, 2012 at 11:47AM

“Thanks, I really hated it. Thought Pitt was bad also Gandolfini. The use of "Heroin" by Velvet Underground in the shooting-up scene was so unbelievably corny and to use a great song like "Love Letters" by Ketty Lester and not play the beautiful original, instead opting for a bad later version, was so lame. Movie left a bad taste because Brad can get any prroject going regardless of its worth. Find that alarming and depressing.”

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6. JEHBN said... on Dec 15, 2012 at 06:51AM

“Have not seen the movie yet, but your review makes you sound like an imbecile.
All you have to say is that it lacks explosions, and that it criticises your beloved
Please stop writing movie critics, and get the fuck off rottentomatoes”

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7. Kyle said... on Dec 21, 2012 at 03:29PM

“"Unfortunately, post-9/11, an invasion seems more plausible than it did in 1984."
I can't tell if you were trying to be sarcastic here...”

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8. Sinan said... on Dec 23, 2012 at 01:55PM

“this is just an embarrassing review. please put this down. it is clear that you are reviewing a movie that you did not understand.

"The film also provides annoying background noise that is supposed to illuminate this tale of mob economics set in 2008."

this is just ridiculously stupid. it is really interesting to see someone who did not understand the painfully obvious allegory, and sadly, that someone calls herself a film critic.

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9. norm said... on Jan 1, 2013 at 07:36PM

“Yikes, who told you could review movies?”

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10. Male Angst said... on Jan 2, 2013 at 12:32AM

“Gimme a break, "tapestry of pleasures"? what does that even mean? movie was so irrelevant, heavy-handed and over acted. Lori totally called it on it's b.s. premise that even the movie lost interest in. what about the 3rd guy in prison? and the money? who cares is what, show me bullet time car accidents and Hollywood hacks chewing scenery.”

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11. Paul said... on Jan 3, 2013 at 05:30AM

“I'm not sure about having to understand movies.
I don't think there is too much complication for us to work through here.
I was very much looking forward to this film. The backdrop of economic and political grimness would have captured my attention were it not for the fact that I found the film to be really bad. The first ten minutes were dire - almost unwatchable. This from a director that made one of my favourite all time films in the Assessination of Jesse James...
The choice of the song Heroin for the Heroin scene was a laugh out loud moment. (After you stop cringing with embarrassment)
The guy with the dogs played by Ben Mendelsohn was very very poor. What was that accent? I can't understand why you would spend so much money and time on a film - which has some beautifully filmed scenes - and then allow a large part of script to be read by a guy that sounds in some parts British and in other parts American. How can an Australian actor not sound Australian? Quite an achievement.”

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12. Sam said... on Jan 4, 2013 at 12:56AM

“Not liking this film is absolutely acceptable, and even understandable. However to call it one of the worst films of the year is ridiculous, and then to so clearly miss the point is inexcusable for anyone who fashions themselves as a film critic.

You state, "the film also provides annoying background noise that is supposed to illuminate this tale of mob economics set in 2008."

How you got this so wrong does not speak highly of your intellect as a reviewer. The film itself is meant to illuminate the "background noise" played throughout and provide an allegory to the economic collapse and the flaws of capitalism. This is not subtle, and indeed if the film is indeed to be criticized, it should be due to the overly obvious and fairly pretentious way it presents its conceits. But to pan the movie while completely missing such an integral and obvious component is truly criminally stupid.”


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