Killing Them Softly


…so says Jackie (Pitt), a hitman for the mob.
With layers of monotone preaching, Killing Them Softly is redundant in its singular theme, and just in case the audio clips from 2008’s presidential campaign consistently interwoven through the scenes and throughout the story didn’t get this point across, Jackie’s dialogue with his employer (Jenkins) is outright in the end, and is followed up with his demand, “Now pay me.”
Roll end credits.

What to like:

  • performances all around are intriguing and well-delivered
  • the cinematography

Why I still recommend you don’t bother with this movie:

  • an allegory that’s monotone and comes across as preachy
  • predictability
  • the film suddenly ends, with no redeeming value of any kind

Perhaps the only poignancy this film can lay claim to is found in the moments leading up to this final scene. The result of working with criminals? Exactly what you’d expect. The only way you wouldn’t see this coming is if, like Frankie (McNairy) you’ve invested your life in the criminal world and wind up in such a bad way that you’re only hope rests in helping the very hitman the mob sends after you.

The premise of this movie involves several low-level crooks knocking over a connected card game, which is apparently the underworld’s own “economic security”. The thieves think they’ll get away clean since the game was robbed before by Markie Trattman (Liotta), the man who operates it. Up until this point the story is credible (if it’s also predictable). But would you believe Trattman and the criminals at his game never bothered to make secure their own stash of money after the first robbery?  Getoutahere!

What’s funny, and by that I mean tragically ironic, is Jackie Cogan’s speech to Frankie.
After catching up to Frankie at his favorite dive, Jackie informs him, with chillingly subtle yet forcefully coercive dialogue, that the mob wants him dead. In a bad-cop-good-cop performance, Jackie persuades Frankie to give up his boss, and save his own skin.

In a mentoring approach, Jackie reprimands the young criminal  for getting caught, and that means he has to pay his dues. Not unlike Markie, the card game operator, Frankie’s guilt only catches up with him via his personal associations. This flies in the face of Jackie’s own theory, that in America, “you’re on your own” – a sentiment the fragile Frankie shares with the formidable hitman.

It’s clear that Dominik‘s version of the Higgn’s novel Cogan’s Trade is an indictment of our country’s economic and political systems. Like the money that winds up gambled at the mob’s poker tables, it seems this story has forgotten that corruption’s existence is owning to something of a greater purpose.

Without the honest work done in this country, where would our poor criminals be?


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