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Killing Them Softly





Released: 2012

Directed By: Andrew Dominik

Starring: Brad Pitt, Ray Liotta

Certificate: 18

Reviewed By: Darryl Griffiths

Once ridiculed for his career choices, now Hollywood heavyweight Brad Pitt is at the peak of his powers. Terrific showings in Terence Malick’s ‘The Tree Of Life’ and baseball drama ‘Moneyball’ (Oscar nom alert) have solidified his status as a credible acting force. Reteaming with acclaimed director Andrew Dominik after their vastly underappreciated colloboration ‘The Assassination of Jesse James’, ‘Killing Them Softly’ sees the duo update George V Higgins novel ‘Cogan’s Trade’ (1974) to lay the foundations for a stinging attack on the current state of American society.

With New Orleans providing the gritty backdrop, we find Ray Liotta’s Markie Trattman pulling the strings of a meticulously planned poker game. In previous scams, he has triumphed. This time however, a mischevious pair of novices threaten to derail his plot. As Frankie (Scoot Mcnairy) and Russell (Ben Mendelsohn) respectively, they are reluctantly hired by tough talking Johnny Amato (Vincent Curatola) to do his ‘bidding’.

Whilst at first glance, their objective to swerve the blame of such a collapse on Markie is achieved, Richard Jenkins aptly named ‘Driver’ believes it’s time to call in reinforcements. Enter Jackie Cogan (Brad Pitt), a deeply cynical authority figure who prefers to avoid the obligatory emotional outpouring from victims and attack ‘from a distance’.

‘Killing Them Softly’ may be somewhat abstract in its storytelling as the plot slowly unravels, but the intended message here is emphatic. Fittingly set in 2008 as the US shift from the much maligned Bush era to the initially hopeful Obama tenure takes place, Dominik here chews on the notion of the American Dream and spits it out with much disdain. Revelling in his incorporation of video clips to drive home such a pessimistic message, he uses the gangster underworld as an ideal platform to imply politicians are suffering from a bout of moral redundancy.

Even without the razor sharp social commentary, Dominik has crafted together an outstanding film. The script is packed to the brim with intelligent but zingy one liners which aids the film’s attempt to deliver pitch black humour. The violence is far from dialled down either and whilst heavily styilised, proves as uncompromising and clinical as the economic climate.

Assembling a cast together who have vast experience in getting their hands dirty in such a genre, works wonders. Liotta’s slimy persona and maniacal laugh will evoke memories of Scorsese’s Goodfellas, James Gandolfini’s troubled hitman with regrets proves to be a compelling character but the film truly belongs to Pitt. Adding to the welcome renaissance of all American anti-heroes, his ‘Cogan’ is as cool as they come.

A marriage of bloodsoaked style and refreshing substance complete with an electrifying final exchange.. ‘Killing Them Softly’ is a thought provoking delight that provides further proof that Pitt, may have found his perfect cinematic sparring partner in Dominik.

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