Killing Them Softly – Review

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 When their illegal card game is held up, and the life blood of the criminal economy is on the verge of collapse, the mafia calls in enforcer Jackie Cogan to fix the situation. Navigating between his indecisive crime bosses and the dim witted lowlifes behind the heist, Cogan moves to restore order, and protect his interests before the situation spirals out of control.

Writer/director Andrew Dominik isn’t known for having made many films, but is known for quality films with ‘Killing Them Softly’ being his third written/directed film following up 2000’s ‘Chopper’ and 2007’s ‘The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford’.

Based on the crime novel ‘Cogan’s Trade’ by George V Higgins, ‘Killing them Softly’ see’s Dominik reunite with Brad Pitt in a gangster tale set in the context of the global financial crisis and Barrack Obama moving into the Presidency. The background setting provides an interesting context in which the film takes place, with every opportunity taken to display an idealistic icon onscreen delivering speeches designed to unite the community and promote the moral fibre of the country.

The manner in which the film continues to revisit these speeches comes across pretty blunt by the time the film wraps, however Dominik uses the setting to deliver something of a capitalist commentary but at its core the story at hand is a fairly familiar one.

Where ‘Killing Them Softly’ really shines, is not in the broad story but in the script. ‘Killing Them Softly’ is a dense script, packed full of long, sometimes meandering but always entertaining dialogue exchanges from beginning to end. The film is driven almost exclusively by its character’s interactions, and it portrays these scenes in great detail.

There are no rushed moments here, the dialogue demands the audience’s complete attention and delivers rewards in return. The script manages to be funny, intense, shocking, and brutal as it follows events across this cast of characters.

With a great script and dialogue being such a centrepiece to the film it is heavily dependent upon the cast to bring it together with chemistry and performances that make the most of the material. To the credit of the casting, direction and acting the performances here all make the most of the material, of particular note however are both Brad Pitt who continues to give great performances in everything he works on, and to Ben Mendelsohn who transforms into his character with a likeable but repulsive demeanour.

Peppered throughout the film are a number of interesting stylish cinematic sequences including a slow motion assassination and a heroin haze that is portrayed so believably as the film has the audience effectively fading in and out of a blurred and trippy first person view with the character attempting to maintain a conversation having recently shot up.

‘Killing Them Softly’ opens with a disorientating sequence and then effectively builds up a cast of street level criminals, enforcers, and criminal mobs and using a straight forward tale weaves it all together with excellent storytelling, stylish filming and a few uncompromisingly brutal scenes.

I’m giving ‘Killing Them Softly’ 7 out of 10 stars, its released in cinemas around Australia on Thursday 11th October 2012.

Be sure to listen to our interview with Ben Mendelsohn and watch the trailer here.

Leith spent most of his formative years growing up on the coastal fringes of Western Australia without a cinema in sight. There he grew up on the wonders of home rentals before relocating to Perth and gaining access to a proper cinematic experience just in time for the Star Wars Special Edition re-releases. From there Leith's love of movies expanded to volunteering on a Star Wars fan film, reviewing films, writing about film news, and attending film and pop-culture related conventions on the other side of the world. Leith's favourite films are too many to mention but all start with the Star Wars saga, Back to the Future, the Dark Knight trilogy, Indiana Jones, Lord of the Rings and all things Kevin Smith. With an insatiable appetite for all things pop-culture related Leith also has an unhealthy addiction to the world of comics and can often be found buried under a pile of unread back issues madly trying to catch up on a number of titles coming out from mostly DC and Darkhorse.