Posted by: ckckred | June 1, 2013

Killing Them Softly

Despite a talented director and cast, Killing Them Softly falls apart

Despite a talented director and cast, Killing Them Softly falls apart

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, director Andrew Dominik’s previous effort, was a slow paced movie that turned off audiences but for those who had enough patience, it was a wholly rewarding experience.  I was part of the latter crowd and it certainly was an impressive film that I consider to be very underrated.  Dominik now has attempted to replicate that success in Killing Them Softly and reunites with Jesse James star Brad Pitt.  Like Jesse James, Killing Them Softly is just as slow paced but far more lackluster.  It’s hard to ignore how messy Killing Them Softly is and the result is a major disappointment for those who enjoyed Dominik’s previous work.

Killing Them Softly takes place in 2008 in a post-Katrina New Orleans.  A guy named Markie Trattman (Ray Liotta) holds poker games regularly for the mob.  One night two gangsters (Vincent Curatola and Ben Mendelsohn) hold up the poker game and make off with a great deal of mob money.  Suspicion rises that the robbery was an inside job, and soon hitman Jackie (Brad Pitt) is hired to sort out this problem.

Killing Them Softly is sort of a mash-up between many mob movies.  Much of its cast made their names in other works based on the mafia (Ray Liotta’s most famous role was in Martin Scorsese’s GoodFellas and The Sopranos’ James Gandolfini also stars in the picture).  These comparisons vastly hurt Killing Them Softly, as it doesn’t nearly match either GoodFellas or The Sopranos in quality.  Killing Them Softly deviates from an average gangster picture by being driven by dialogue instead of action.  This isn’t necessarily a problem, since both GoodFellas and The Sopranos had many great quotable scenes (who can forget Tommy DeVito’s “funny how?” speech), but there’s a feeling that Killing Them Softly thinks it’s a much smarter movie then it actually is.  There’s plenty of juicy dialogue, but most of it never fits naturally in the picture, seeming disjointed in the picture.

But what really kills the movie is the not-so-subtle metaphor to the economy.  Since 2008, the failing economy has no doubt been significant to the United States and the rest of the world.  Some movies have well adapted economic anxiety on the screen (Jeff Nichol’s Take Shelter is a fine example).  Dominik, however, bashes this allegory on the audience’s head.  Killing Them Softly is filled with political and economic speeches that appear throughout the picture.  The film is really trying to compare the declining power of the mob to the flailing economy, an idea that’s intriguing, but unfortunately Dominik executes it badly.  He brings some fine performances from his actors, particularly with Brad Pitt, but they’re not enough to save the picture.

I’m being very harsh on Killing Them Softly and it’s probably a bit better than what I’m making it out to be.  There are some very interesting elements to the picture and for a while I was gripped by the story.  But the faults outweigh the positives and seeing the director and cast I expected something much more.  I really wanted to like the picture but just can’t recommend it.  Despite it being well meaning, Killing Them Softly is a failure.



  1. Great post as always.

  2. Sadly, I have to agree. There things I appreciate in it, but in the end it’s not something I care about or want to watch again. Fine review, ckckred.

    • Thanks! Yeah, it’s something that I expected to be much more.

  3. Good review. The tension is all built up through each and every one of these characters, as each one is more interesting and compelling than the one that came before them. Can’t say I loved it, but came pretty darn close.

    • Thanks! I admired the concept but thought Dominik didn’t execute it properly. I was very disappointed.

  4. I agree, I was very disappointed by this movie. I love Jesse James and Pitt was great here but the film was a mess.

    • Yeah, the movie was a big disappointment. If Dominik wasn’t so heavy handed with the message, it would have been much better.

  5. Yeah I would have to agree with you on this, I really wanted to just love the picture. It had tension, some tough, physically brutal scenes to watch and some snappy dialogue (mostly from Pitt) that all seemed trademark to most successful gang movies but I too got really irritated by how hard the political allegory was being driven home. This is a really good, accurate review. Nicely done

    • Thanks! Glad you agree, the political metaphor was really poorly executed. I probably went too hard on the picture, but it’s a huge disappointment.

  6. I was one of the few who actually really liked this film. I was a fan of Jesse James and enjoyed it slow pace but I still found that Dominik done the same thing again. Granted, the sociopolitical message is a bit heavy handed but I found that it worked for the part. For me, the drama was in the dialogue and the verbal exchanges and even though I was disappointed in it’s lack of “gangster” activity, I was still hooked with the characters and the decline of the mob culture, reflected in the decline of politics.

    • Thanks for the comment. I was a fan of Jesse James as well, but I felt Dominik tried to replicate the same formula. Like you, I enjoyed some of the banter, but for me it didn’t feel like an original movie and the metaphor was very badly executed. The concept was good but seeing the director and cast I was disappointed.

  7. One of those “love it or hate it” movies. It seems there is no middle ground to this. Personally I fall in the love it camp, but can understand your thoughts about it.

    • I really wanted to like this more, since I liked Jesse James, but I found myself very disappointed. Glad you liked it though. Thanks for commenting.

      • First time I saw Jesse James I actually turned it off because it did nothing for me. Then years later rewatched it and I couldn’t understand why I did that….it is beautiful.

  8. I’ve heard such mixed things about this but I really want to check it out. I’ve got Jesse James sat at home waiting to watch, so I might watch that first before moving onto this.

    • It’s intriguing but really isn’t worth watching. Jesse James is a great movie and I suggest seeing that instead. Thanks for commenting.

  9. Ray Liotta is always a sign of a dud. However, I liked this one and really enjoyed James Gandolfini’s performance, although it made no impact on the plot.

    • Glad to see you liked this one. Gandolfini was good in his role, though it was unnecessary. Now that you mention it, I can’t think of a single Ray Liotta picture I like other than GoodFellas. Thanks for commenting.

      • Me too, Goodfellas was hit one hit wonder.

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