The Port Arthur News
“Killing Them Softly” is a pretty good crime-drama, but it’s more notable for its artistic flourishes and a trio of amazing performances by James Gandolfini, Richard Jenkins and Brad Pitt. If there was ever any doubt about Pitt’s movie stardom, this is the film that puts the doubters to rest. Pitt plays a character here that’s so effortlessly cool that you can’t take your eyes off of him. For many of you, that’s not really a problem.
Based on George Higgins’ pulp novel “Cogan’s Trade,” this is the story of a couple of lowlife criminals who rob a mob-run poker game. A mob enforcer named Jackie Cogan (Pitt) is brought in to track down the thieves and set things straight. He, in turn, brings in a hitman named Mickey (Gandolfini) to help sort out the mess. As is often the case in these types of movies, things don’t go smoothly and a lot of people get killed off before the final credits roll.
Given that premise, it’s a bit surprising that “Killing Them Softly” is actually a very dialogue-driven film. That’s fine with me because it allows the actors ample time to showcase their skills. Pitt once again shows that he’s both a major movie star as well as an accomplished actor. Gandolfini practically steals the show playing a killer going through something of a midlife crisis with a couple of scenes that are bravura examples of an actor perfectly cast for a role.
That being said, a lot of what the actors spend the whole film talking about does seem to be a bit obvious. It’s all set in 2008, so there are constant clips of then candidate Obama and President Bush on the campaign trail, talking about America and the economy. We’re meant to see the connection between criminal enterprise and American corporate culture. It’s a point that’s hammered home with all the subtlety of a shotgun, and let’s face it, we’ve seen that idea explored before in so many other mob movies. “Killing Them Softly” simply isn’t breaking any new ground here.
The same holds true for the slow motion fight/gun battle sequences. That technique has been used before, but even so, they are still undeniably cool to watch. That seems to be the point. There are enough of these awesome scenes, either of the acting or the violence variety to get fans of the genre buzzing. “Killing Them Softly” may not be about anything groundbreaking, but it’s sure a lot of fun to watch.
Especially for those of you who like to watch Brad Pitt.
Movie reviews by Sean, “The Movie Guy,” are published bi-weekly in “The Port Arthur News” and seen weekly on KFDM-TV and KBOI 2-TV. Sean welcomes your comments via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.