I have been writing film reviews for over 7 years now and this is one of the few time I am really at a loss for words. Meaning that I really do not know what to say about this Andrew Dominik (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford)/Brad Pitt venture. It certainly was different and it had a fairly simple story and yet…I’m still at a loss for words. I can’t quite figure out what they were going for.
Former con Johnny Amato (Vincent Curatola – from television’s The Sopranos) has an idea for the perfect robbery. He tells another former con, Frankie (Scoot McNairy – Argo, Bobby), to find a partner. He comes up with Aussie Russell (Ben Mendelsohn – The Dark Knight Rises, Animal Kingdom), who Johnny is not thrilled with due to his sarcastic attitude, but Frankie vouches for him. The plan is that they are going to rob a set up, Mob protected big stakes card game and get away with it because the man, Markie (Ray Liotta – Goodfellas, Smokin’ Aces), who organizes the games has previously robbed them. When the closed (meaning no one knows about them) games are robbed for a second time Markie is going to naturally be the prime suspect. No one is going to look for anyone else.
The card games are shut down and the local underground crime community suffers. It is already a tough economic time in the United States. Answers and quickly are needed. The mob hires hitman Jackie (Brad Pitt – Se7en, Inglorious Basterds) to get to the bottom of what happened. He figures out pretty quickly after having Markie beaten within an inch of his life that it was an outside job. Now he just has to figure out who is behind it.
Stylistically Dominik’s film feels straight out the 70s. It has that look and feel to it. The visuals are very grimy and the script is as unforgiving as nails. There is tons of black humour to be found. It is a crime film that is in no way typical of the genre.
Despite all the stylized camerawork and quirky characters what really threw me about the film was the whole political/economic message. In the background either visually on a television screen playing in the background or via voiceover courtesy of George Bush and Barack Obama there was ongoing speeches going on about the state of American politics and the economy at the time. The film obviously takes place during the recent crash of the American economy when plenty of citizens were suffering financially (2008). It was even hard to figure out how this all related to the crime story going on. Though it did provide me with plenty of food for thought. Nothing more so than when one of America’s biggest actors Brad Pitt uttered the lines that Thomas Jefferson was a self serving hypocrite and that people in the U.S. are not created equally and that the U.S. should not be thought of as a country, but rather as a corporation. What this had to do with the card game robbery story is beyond me.
All this being said I’m in the middle about this film. It wasn’t fantastic and it wasn’t horrible. Some will love it while others will hate it. Some will love the mass of dialogue while others will feel like it is just dragging down the film. The acting is quite solid, but it gets subsumed under all the strangeness. Everyone, however, will walk away thinking about and reacting to what they’ve just seen.
-The Making of Killing Them Softly