even criminals need a bailout. Of
course, they can always help themselves to an involuntary one. That is what crime and government are all
about. Yet, somehow Andrew Dominik turns
a modest heist caper into a didactic statement on political economy in the
frustrating lost opportunity titled Killing
Them Softly (trailer
opens today nationwide.
Killing reminds viewers
how annoying it is to have to listen to CNN in an airport concourse. Say what you will about Tarantino, but at
least his gangsters listen to vintage soul music. It is news radio all the way for Dominik’s
low life thugs. At almost every point of
Killing news reports of the 2007
financial crisis and Obama’s campaign speeches blare down on viewers like Big
Brother in Oceania. The economy was
bad. We get it, thank you. Here’s a newsflash—it’s still stalled.
this omnipresent backdrop, Frankie recruits his dog-napping buddy Russell to
pull off a risky score. They are going
to hold-up the mob-protected card game run by Markie Trattman. Ordinarily, knocking over a connected game is
a losing proposition, but in this case someone else will automatically be
blamed: Trattman. A while back, he conspired
to take down his own game and blabbed about it afterward. Everyone likes Trattman, so they let it slide,
once, but if it happens again things are sure to get ugly.
first, everything seems to be going according to plan. Then fixer Jackie Cogan is called in to
investigate. He intuitively knows
Trattman has been set-up, but he does not have much sympathy for the man. Frankly, sentiment really is not his thing, not
even for an old past-his-prime hitman chum he mistakenly brings in to help
clean up the job.
can see why Brad Pitt is a movie star in Killing. Even when chewing on over-the-top “America is
a corporation not a community” dialogue that would make The Simpsons’ Mr. Burns snicker, he is an electric presence. For the most part, his scenes with Richard
Jenkins’ Driver, the exasperated counselor to the mob’s corporate governing
committee, are smartly written and bitingly witty. However, Dominik plays out his crime as a
metaphor for capitalism well past the breaking point.
when you strip away Killing’s layers
of ostensive “relevance,” one is left with a fairly routine crime drama. A score goes down and several people
involved, one way or another, are subsequently dispatched, but it is difficult
to care much about their fates. After
all Dominik scrupulously establishes the lack of innocence in this world. Still, Ray Liotta has his moments as the
tragic Trattman, a self-defeating figure like so many of Killing’s characters.
is no meaningful takeaway from Killing,
because its premise is faulty. The mob
is not like a corporation, it is like a government that can take what it wants
and change the rules at its convenience.
Dominik’s adaptation of George V. Higgins’ novel gives viewers a few
clever lines and a couple of colorful scenes, but that is about the extent of
it. A real disappointment, Killing Them Softly is not recommended
when it opens today (11/30) in New York at the AMC Kips Bay and Regal Union
Labels: Brad Pitt, Caper movies, Mafia films