Review: There is something unusually attractive about crime-thrillers. Bloody, gory yet so gripping. Andrew Dominik’s latest, Killing Them Softly, is all this and more. The protagonist, Brad Pitt is Jackie Cogan – the soft-hearted, rather casual, mob enforcer and hired assassin in New Orleans, USA.
There’s a man going around taking names
And he decides who to free and who to blame
Everybody won’t be treated all the same
There’ll be a golden ladder reaching down
When the Man comes around
A few lines from Johnny Cash’s song, When the Man comes around – play on Jackie Cogan’s car radio as he enters the scene. Aptly used and wonderfully set into the frame by Dominik, the man’s presence is inspiring & menacing. Based on the 1974 crime thriller book, Cogan’s Trade penned by the mastermind, George V. Higgins, this film makes for a perfect story based on the book fast-forwarded to the economic meltdown of 2008. Andrew Dominik is explicit with the intended meanings about money, institutional rot and what happens when you cease to keep your economic house in order. The approach is quick and direct, something that would appeal to today’s audiences and Killing Them Softly delivers it that way.
Unlike other assassins who simply ‘do their thing’ without uttering a single word, Jackie Cogan works a tad-bit differently. He is talkative, suave and totally on top of his game except that he has a shortcoming – he hates killing anyone from close quarters with the victim squeamishly begging for mercy. So he chooses to kill ’em from afar, no ‘strings’ attached per se. Something he calls Killing Them Softly, hence the film’s apt title, which is more than just a fast-paced, hard-hitting hitman thriller.
What one may also notice is that crime films are a lot about capitalism, a genre where it is perfectly acceptable for all the characters to be motivated by the desire for money. That’s where novice hitmen, Frankie and Russell step in, hired by Johnny "Squirrel" Amato. Jerks in every respect, they are still able to pull-off a high-stakes card game heist without any major hiccups until the ‘man’ comes around. The beauty of it all is that you won’t end up feeling sorry for any character, at any point of the film, they are all criminals, their respective grisly end only looks justified.
At several places, one may find those Pulp Fiction-like pre-violence conversations that Jackie Cogan is seen doing. All in all, the film is smart from each and every aspect, with perfect performances from the entire star cast and superb behind-the-camera work by the crew especially the amazing effects captured and presented in pure Andrew Dominik style. It will also never let you forget Brad Pitt’s pithy condemnation of Thomas Jefferson’s way of functioning the post-Independence law right down to the ultimate dialogue “Crime is the business of America”, in other words, where’s there’s money,
there’s a way when you live in America.
Verdict: A fast-paced, electrifying story of a hitman portrayed masterfully by Andrew Dominik.
Director: Andrew Dominik
Cast: Brad Pitt, Ben Mendelsohn, James Gandolfini, Vincent Curatola, Richard Jenkins, Ray Liotta
Genre: Crime, Thriller
Writer: Andrew Dominik, George V. Higgins
Length: 1 hr 37 mins