Killing Them Softly introduces Brad Pitt’s Jackie Cogan an original villain for our age at a cost – Killing Them Softly Film Review

Posted by Craig Grobler on Google+ On Tuesday, October 09, 2012

I couldn't understand why a seemingly high profile film like Killing Them Softly was getting such a low key release, but as Brad Pitt is involved - usually a badge of quality and nudged on by @maverick99sback review I headed to the cinema.

Brilliantly shot by Andrew Dominik with memorable camera work and great performances Killing Them Softly rolls out very much in a Tarantino’esque style, even with his characteristic focus on conversations and sharp dialogue. There were moments early on when I thought the engaging and visually stunning way it glides from hilarious through tense to dead serious might place Killing Them Softly on my very short list of great organised crime/gangster related films but the allegorical politicking is relentless.

I abhor political agendas being weaved into film and sure, for many the knee jerk reaction to that statement is being offended as George Clooney and Matt Damon’s politics seem sensible to you (as it does to me) but it would be hypocritical to demean negative propaganda in films, that is propaganda that reinforces others bizarre beliefs, contrary to my own and ignore Killing Them Softly hijacking the medium to spread its own agenda.

Killing Them Softly Poster
Killing Them Softly Poster
Killing Them Softly - Official Trailer (HD)

- As much as the supporting cast deliver outstanding performances across the board like; Richard Jenkins, Ray Liotta (in his best role for awhile) and particularly Scoot McNairy and Ben Mendelsohn as the two criminals at the heart of the story that set off a chain of events that comes tumbling down on them with the arrival of professional hard man Jackie Cogan to the tune of Johnny Cash’s The Man Comes Around.

Ben Mendelsohn Scoot McNairy Killing Them Softly
Sweaty Ben Mendelsohn as Russell & Scoot McNairy as Frankie in Killing Them Softly
- As much as Brad Pitt gives us a fresh and insightful character study of the criminal; mind, beliefs and how these ruthless people may come to be, credibly reinforced by his portrayal of Cogan’s anti hero which finally adds a dimension of selfish nastiness to the all to often glamourised and romanticized image of a principled criminal - making Jackie Cogan an original villain, not an easy task given the proliferation of the crime genre but Jackie Cogan is a villain for and created by our age.

Brad Pitt as Jackie Cogan in Killing Them Softly
Brad Pitt as Jackie Cogan in Killing Them Softly
- As much as Killing Them Softly retains much of the authentic subtlety and seedy ambiance including the coded vocabulary of the underworld painted by its source material - George Higgins’s novel Cogan’s Trade.

Ray Liotta as Markie Trattman Killing Them Softly
Ray Liotta as Markie Trattman in Killing Them Softly
I for the life of me can’t understand why anyone thought it would be a good idea to try slap a veneer of moralistic intelligence over Killing Them Softly to lift it from a great crime tale with superior performances, art house cinematography and a compelling atmosphere to a more relevant and complex allegory of economics in America by imbuing it with a constant and relentless barrage of media messages drawing similarities to operating criminal organisations and the factors employed by the US to both; bring about and then deal with the recent economic crises.

And much like Pitt's character Jackie Cogan, Killing Them Softly seems to think it is doing this softly, but Killing Them Softly is not that smart or as subtle as it thinks and ultimately it seems to want to hammer you with the takeaway message that - you aren't capable of making an intelligent decision for yourself without a Hollywood star making it for you.

It smugly hopes that you’ll go away thinking about political issues and, well, I guess I can see why some people who go see a film being sold on the basis of a picture showing Brad Pitt holding a gun might well need to be schooled in politics (don’t feel offended I paid to see it too) but I felt a little cheated that I had actually paid to be schooled by another Hollywood star using the medium, without a hint of subtlety, to seed their beliefs and wondered if this need to dictate to his audience would spill over into Pitt’s future films - compromising their entertainment value as well.

And yes whilst I can understand the ethics behind a Hollywood star wanting to use his star power for his version of good and there is an intelligent argument to be made for causal effect of the lack of banking regulation policy ultimately leading to a decline of society & community and creating the ideal breeding ground for Jackie Cogans and his caliber of man - any chance of this was lost in heavy handed and unashamed politicking.

Killing Them Softly is in UK cinemas from 21 September, 2012
Adapted from George V. Higgins novel and set in New Orleans, Killing Them Softly follows professional enforcer, Jackie Cogan (Pitt), who investigates a heist that occurs during a high stakes, mob-protected, poker game. The film also features Scoot McNairy (Monsters), Ben Mendelsohn (Animal Kingdom), Ray Liotta, Richard Jenkins (The Visitor), with James Gandolfini, Vincent Curatola, Max Casella and Sam Shepard among others.

Director: Andrew Dominik
Writers: Andrew Dominik, George V. Higgins
Stars: Brad Pitt, Ray Liotta and Richard Jenkins

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