Killing Them Softly

Cameron Hines

I’ve always been fascinated with stories that act as allegories for current issues that exist in our society. So when I found out that Killing Them Softly was an allegory for the United States’ current economy, I was intrigued to see how gratuitous violence and Brad Pitt wielding a gun could uncover some truth to our country’s current economic state.

The movie follows Brad Pitt’s character Jackie Cogan, who has been hired to restore order to a crime-infested community after a mob-guarded card game is robbed by three guys who have no idea how to successfully pull off a heist. These three individuals, played by Scoot McNairy, Ben Mendelsohn and Vincent Curatola, are hilarious trying to get away with their crime.

Pitt is incredibly cynical on screen, but is also in his element as a street-smart enforcer who clearly has dealt with situations like this before. He’s been hired by a mob to sort out the situation, which of course means people will be killed. He hires a legendary hit-man played by James Gandolfini to kill the three, but is forced to take the matter into his own hands after he discovers Gandolfini has become a drunkard only interested in having sex when he’s not downing liquor. Gandolfini is excellent in this role, as you see a man no longer interested in the business that made him notorious.

The movie has flashes of brilliance, brought mostly from writer/director Andrew Dominik, whose previous works are Chopper and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. The scene with these bumbling fools is exceptional, as the entire sequence, which lasts almost 10 minutes, never relents in intensity. However, though these scenes are excellent, there are many that almost drag as the movie goes from 60 to 0 constantly. The film plods in some spots, as you go from images of someone being shot to Gandolfini talking about his marriage problems. If you see this film, you cannot expect it to be a constant action thrill ride because it simply isn’t: it’s an exploration into capitalism in America.

Killing Them Softly is a movie supported by strong performances from Pitt, Gandolfini and McNairy, with some excellent direction and dark humor. All of this is tied in a violent bow with some political and economic overtones as well. However, as much as I enjoyed the violence and crime being allegorical to our current state as a country, Killing Them Softly left me a bit unsatisfied and wishing that more had occurred during the movie.