Movie Review: Killing Them Softly

Ratings for reviews will appear above the fold, while the review itself will appear below the fold to avoid spoilers for anyone that wants to go into it with a blank slate.

Jean-Paul’s rating: 3/5 stars

It’s not easy being a criminal in these tough economic times.  “Killing Them Softly” takes place during the 2008 economic recession.  Senator Obama is still running for president against Senator McCain.  President Bush is trying to fix the economy.  I know this because almost every scene has a radio or television in the background telling me so.

Most of the movie works like this:  Listen to radio or television for thirty seconds then listen to stupid criminals behaving stupidly for a few minutes.  I can only assume this was done to give viewers the impression that the choices the characters are making are not fully their own and that the times are influencing their path.  The problem with this is I see no evidence of it being true.  Stupid criminals are always going to make stupid decisions.  That is the only saving grace of our society, most criminals are stupid.

The story begins with three stupid criminals and a stupid idea to rob a mob backed card game.  I can’t even remember their names, but they most assuredly end with “-ie” because everybody’s name seems to end in “-ie”.  That’s how much of an impression they made.  They have what is actually a fairly decent stupid plan.  You see, the man who runs the game, Markie Trattman (Ray Liotta), robbed one of his own games before and everyone knows this.  They know this because Markie once bragged about it while drunk.  But everyone likes Markie so all is forgiven.  If his game were to be robbed again, though, Markie will surely get the blame and they can get away clean.

Enter Jackie Cogan (Brad Pitt).  Jackie’s job is to find out who did the job and to make them dead.  Maybe.  The never present new era mob bosses are apparently a little squeamish about killing, but with a little coaxing from their handler (played by Richard Jenkins), they finally agree that people have to die.  Jackie is a criminal’s criminal.  He is equal parts intelligent and sociopathic.  Unlike every other criminal he interacts with, you get the feeling that Jackie will never see the other side of a jail cell.

The middle of the movie is mostly Jackie interacting with stupid criminals and babysitting former smart hit man, Mickey (James Gandolfini).  The parts with Mickey don’t seem to add much to the movie except to show in excruciating detail how the mob ain’t what it used to be.

Reading this review, I wonder if I should have given it two stars instead of three.  But there is some fun here that doesn’t translate well to a review about a mediocre plot.  There is a terrific death scene that reminded me of a ballet.  There is also some really good dialogue even if it is completely inconsequential to the story.  Jackie also delivers an entertaining anti-Obama, ur-American soliloquy at the end that is all the more entertaining coming out of uber-liberal Brad Pitt’s mouth.  This one’s definitely a wait for rental movie, but I’d still recommend it.

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