“Killing Them Softly” deserves an audience

By Brian Duskey

December 4, 2012

Brad Pitt has just went from “celebrity with talent” to an official “acting legend.” Consider yourself warned. Andrew Dominik’s latest film “Killing Them Softly” is going to be a highly debated film. Whether the audience member loves or hates it, one thing must be said: they just witnessed film history. “Killing Them Softly” is a crime epic. If there is anything we know about crime epics in film history, we know that they have produced some of the most famous quotes and monologues. “The Godfather,” “Goodfellas” and “Pulp Fiction” all have their significance in both pop culture and history. This film is about to join them. The story doesn’t really follow one specific character, in general, as much as it follows a situation. The situation is some amateur criminals pulling off a robbery at an illegal card game that was run by the mob, who now wants the robbers dead, but the person who was believed of being behind the robbery (Ray Liotta), actually isn’t. So now we have a barrage of heat and violence surrounding the entire crime industry, with no resolution in sight. Jackie Cogan (Pitt) is then hired to come on and take care of the entire situation, so that  the crime-economy can be set straight. Pitt is insanely memorable in his role. Every time he comes on screen, the audience is enthralled by every word that he speaks. There is a clear intimidation that results from every movement he makes. His performance is both real and entertaining. It is an event. It is a sight to be seen. Pitt, however, is not the only strong performance in this film. James Gandolfini plays a legend of sorts in the crime business who Cogan wants help from in order to “solve” this entire situation. Gandolfini is only in two scenes, but each one is just a pleasure to watch. There are moments of awkwardness in them because his character is in a point of his life where all he has is his sexual ventures, so the dialogue can get pretty uncomfortable for some audience members. Despite that, both of the scenes are electrifying. They are both one-on-one meetings between Gandolfini and Pitt. Something that acting enthusiasts would only believe to see in their dreams. This is writer/director Dominik’s third film and has been five years since his Western epic “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford,” which also starred Pitt. It has been a constant in Dominik’s career where he doesn’t really have a protagonist or antagonist within the story. His films have leaned more towards character studies than stereotypical narratives, and they have all worked in that sense. The film definitely has it’s political undertones, but they are neither liberal nor conservative. Throughout the film, the audience often hears soundbites from the 2008 Obama campaign, with shouts of “change” and “yes we can.” At one point, Cogan throws away the idea of “change” but it isn’t so much an anti-Obama angle as it is an anti-patriot angle. In what will eventually be seen as one of great monologues in film history, Cogan summarizes why America will never be “united” and must just accept the fact that it isn’t a nation. It’s a business. This is the final moment of the film and it gives you piercing chills as you leave the theater. The film does have it’s troubles, though. The opening of the film is, by far, some of the worst and most unbearable 60 seconds ever seen in a movie theater. There is a credit sequence that cuts between the credits and one of thugs who robs the card game. It is well shot because the imagery is very memorable, but the sound editing is so jarring that it can make an audience member want to take a snub-nose .38 to the head. Despite some pacing issues early on and a terrible opening sequence, “Killing Them Softly” succeeds in it’s efforts. It is going to be one of the most memorable films of the year and will forever be referred to, in film history, as one of greatest “acting films.” It will be highly-debated and won’t be for everyone, but it still deserves an opportunity. Go see this in the theater. Now.