Andrew Dominik’s Killing Them Softly: A Review by Nate Hill

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What can I really say about Andrew Dominik’s Killing Them Softly. Well, my bosses named our site after it, and judging by our ongoing excellent taste in film (hehe), the namesake of our moniker should be a masterpiece. It is a masterpiece, a slow burning, truly clever crime yarn that slightly deconstructs the genre, sets it’s story at a pivitol time in American history, and has some of the most hard hitting, intimate scenes of violence I’ve seen on film. Dominik takes his sweet damn time getting to know these characters before any bloodshed occurs, and when it does, it’s a visceral affront to the senses, pulveruzing us with a very un-cinematic, realistic and entirely ugly vision of violence. Ray Liotta plays Markie, an illegal gambling official who once robbed one of his own games, subsequently boasting about it like a chump. When another of his outfits is knocked off by two scrappy losers (Ben Mendelsohn and Scoot Mcnairy) logic dictates that it must be him playing games again, and his superiors send a merry troupe of thugs to find him. The matter is overseen by Jackie Cogan (Brad Pitt) a slick, sophisticated killer who prefers to ‘kill them softly’, in other words, from a distance and with little pleading or fuss. He is employed by “” (an awesome Richard Jenkins), a businessman sort who isn’t above haggling for the price of a killer’s contract down to the very last dime. You see, the film is set during the 2008 financial crisis, and Dominik takes every opportunity he can to fill his frames with debris, dereliction and strife. Even in a world of criminals the blow to the economy is felt, and they too must adjust accordingly. Cogan brings in outsider Mickey (James Gandolfini), an aging wash up who spends more time swearing , boozing and whoring up a storm than he does getting any work done. Gandolfini ingeniously sends up his capable Tony Soprano character with this bizarro world rendition on the Italian hoodlum, a fat, lazy layabout with bitter shades of the threatening figure he must once of been. Before all this happens, though, we are treated to extended interludes spent with Mendelsohn and Mcnairy, and they both knock it out of the park with their shambling, sweaty, reprehensible presence. Mendelsohn is endlessly watchable, muttering his slovenly dialogue through a curtain of heroin and sleaze. Watch for a tiny, super random cameo from Sam Shepherd as a thug who hassles Liotta. There’s a beatdown sequence, and you’ll know when it comes, that pushes the limits to extremes. Every punch is felt like a meteor landing, leaving the victim and the viewer aghast. Dominik never throws gimmicks into his work here. Every scene is insistently unique, and the real hero is pacing. The film moves in fits, starts and eruptions with long flatlines in between, until our instinctual knowledge of a narrative truly is lost to the story, with no idea what will happen next. Genius.  

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