Viewing your Watchlist and recommended content requires Javascript

  • 18
  • Crime, Thriller
  • 2012

Killing Them Softly

Film4 Killing Them Softly

Synopsis

A loose network of large, medium and small time professional crooks cross paths, seldom with happy consequences, in Chopper director Andrew Dominik's free market capitalism crime thriller

About

Brad Pitt is a hitman tasked with cleaning up a messy mob affair in Andrew Dominik's lean, mean, darkly comic thriller. Adapted from a mid-70s crime novel by George V. Higgins, Killing Them Softly is specifically set in the autumn of 2008, as America sits in the grip of the Financial Crisis and the political grandstanding of the Bush / Obama presidential election. This pointed period setting gives an unlikely and enthralling thematic backdrop to Dominik’s considered, atmospheric action, where talk and tension often take pride of place over shoot-outs and spectacle. Though a whole hour shorter than the western epic The Asssasination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford, there’s still plenty to chew on in Killing Them Softly, and there's an incredible ensemble cast (including James Gandolfini, Scoot McNairy, Ben Mendelsohn, Ray Liotta, Sam Shepard & Richard Jenkins) to boot.

Critic's Review

'Bleak' is a word that can cover a multitude of sins in filmmaking. It might mean joyless austerity. It might mean you can expect to finish the film feeling miserable and not much else. Or it might mean that we're in for a dose of misanthropy, and it's this last sense that most applies to Andrew Dominik's adaptation of George V. Higgins' 1974 novel Cogan's Trade. Killing Them Softly offers a highly misanthropic vision of humanity, but is nevertheless entertaining, with tremendous performances by the ensemble cast fleshing out already juicy low life characters.

Scoot McNairy and Ben Mendelsohn in particular make an excellent double act as Frankie and Russell, a pair of - not to put too fine a point on it - idiots who, as idiots so often do in noirish genres, get in over their heads with some dangerous people. Frankie (McNairy) is the more personable of the pair, and it's Frankie whose relative naivety will later contrast painfully with the man embodying this film's black heart: Brad Pitt in the small but pivotal role of professional enforcer Jackie Cogan, whose contribution to his marketplace is businesslike and brutal violence combined with lengthy speeches.

The bricks and mortar of the piece are standard cinematic thuggery and associated gangsterish preoccupations with hookers and drugs, elegantly photographed. But it's the cultural backdrop that the writer-director would presumably like to stand out as a point of difference compared your run of the mill genre flick, as media reports running throughout the talky yet visceral action draw parallels between financially motivated brutality and currently topical free market driven economic chaos. It won't win any points for subtlety but perhaps earns some credit for being here at all in a film that's otherwise mostly about watching men take each other apart and deliver diverting soliloquies brimming with self-justification.

In a nutshell: Complex and problematic in a rather wonderful way, Killing Them Softly has flaws more interesting than the perfections of some films, and would in any case be worth seeing for its performances alone, which are among 2012's most horribly fascinating.

By Catherine Bray

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Ben Mendelsohn, Scoot McNairy, James Gandolfini, Brad Pitt, Richard Jenkins, Ray Liotta
  • Director: Andrew Dominik
  • Screen Writer: Andrew Dominik
  • Photographer: Greig Fraser

Latest from Film4...

  • Film4

    Endless Love

    Alex Pettyfer and Gabriella Wilde star in this romantic drama directed by Shana Feste.

  • Film4

    Northern Soul

    Elliot James Langridge and Josh Whitehouse star in writer-director Elaine Constantine's coming-of-age drama.

  • Channel 4 Blog

    TIFF 2016: Top Ten

    Film4.com Editor Michael Leader runs through ten standouts from the Toronto International Film Festival...   The Oath I'd already seen three of the four Film4-backed films screening in Toronto (inc

  • Channel 4 Blog

    Baltasar Kormakur on The Oath

    As his Film4-backed Icelandic thriller The Oath premieres in Toronto, director/writer/actor Baltasar Kormakur speaks with Film4.com editor Michael Leader about making films in Hollywood, returning to

Register with Film4.com

Personalise your Film4 experience

  • Set film reminders
  • Build your watchlist
  • Get film suggestions

or Register

Tweets @Film4

  • RT @NathanDitum: This is so good https://t.co/ECuKxo4TSu

  • From the director of this year’s masterful Green Room, Blue Ruin plays for the time tonight at 10.50pm https://t.co/ALCwxoHK5u

  • First play alert! At 10.50pm, catch Jeremy Saulnier’s violent, visceral revenge thriller Blue Ruin https://t.co/tHYDcDx36h

  • Answer! Willem Dafoe's birth name was... William J Dafoe! #AdventTrivia https://t.co/Ld7sX9MSTN

  • RT @Film4: What is Willem Dafoe’s birth name? #AdventTrivia

Share