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This Brad Pitt hitman drama got slammed by American audiences - does it deserve its bad rap...?
Anchor Bay / 97 Minutes / 2012 / Rated R / Street Date: March 26, 2013
American audiences loathed Andrew Dominik’s Killing Them Softly – bestowing upon the movie a truly rare ‘F’ CinemaScore grade – and after sifting through the dense film on DVD, I’m not entirely sure if I know why. This tale of a hitman and the company he keeps goes out of its way to turn the genre on its head, which is wonderfully welcome, but in doing so, it undermines some of the bloody thrills that seedy stories like this one are known for.
This writer found himself in an unknown state during his initial viewing of the movie, trying to figure out the very basic concept of whether I enjoyed the picture or not. There are so many question marks that pop up during the film’s shockingly short running time that even if I’m unsure as to the movie’s innate dramatic worth, I have a pretty good feeling I’ll want to investigate the film again fairly soon: it’s by no means a perfect movie, but there are mysteries within it that continue to nag at me (in a wonderful way).
In the movie, Jackie (Brad Pitt) is a hitman who knows what kind of tasks come with his work. When he’s assigned to ‘iron things out’ when a card game at Markie Trattman’s (Ray Liotta’s) place gets gnarly, he doesn’t bat an eye: he knows what he has to do (cue the sound of Jackie loading a gun). But this is where Killing Them Softly splinters a bit – we absolutely follow Jackie’s exploits (and it gets way more interesting once fellow crime-world denizens James Gandolfini and Richard Jenkins show up), but the film also spends a lot of time focusing on… the 2008 economic crisis.
It’s in this arena where Killing Them Softly evolves from being just another crime film into a fable about what America means and where the country is after our new millennium’s first decade. It wouldn’t be entirely fair to call it an internationally-minded American crime drama (though director Andrew Dominik is from New Zealand), but it’s plainly clear why audiences at Cannes last year loved it. This is a distinctly American picture that has been made with an ‘off’ quality that makes it deliriously anomalous. My gut instinct is to say it’s the kind of movie you either love or hate, but I honestly can’t figure out where I stand on the picture myself.