LAKE OCONEE — “Killing Them Softly”
Rated R (for violence, sexual references, pervasive language, and drug use).
Watching “Killing Them Softly” was killing me harshly. Never have I experienced a mob film where the sawed-off shotguns, fists and pistols did less carnage than the yappity-yappity of the characters---the difference being that the victims of such violence is the audience.
George V. Higgins wrote a novel entitled Cogan’s Trade, which was written in 1974, a time period in which the film should have remained. Instead, the “perp” of the film (writer and director), Andrew Dominik moved it up to 2008 during the election. Scene after scene is assaulted (if not kidnapped and cruelly molested) by televisions blaring about the collapsing economy (President Bush talking) and Senator Obama campaigning and eventually declaring victory. Why? Apparently Mr. Dominik wants us to know that he thinks politics is like organized crime. Not an original point, Mr. Dominik; I read it in a comic book about fifty years ago. So did my father, probably. I really don’t care, however, because with CNN blaring in the background, I wanted to whack the screen and end the painful distraction.
As for the measly plot: a small fry gangster who is in the dry-cleaning business gets an idea for a heist. He hires two morons, Frankie (Scoot McNairy) and Russell (Ben Mendelsohn) to hold up a mob-controlled card game run by the amiable Markie (Ray Liotta). The imbeciles succeed but the big shots want to find the three weasels and kill them. But the enforcer they usually used was indisposed so they get their lawyer (Richard Jenkins) to hire Jackie (Brad Pitt) of the usual guy's crew. Consequently, Brad and the mob lawyer talk and talk and talk...about the pros and cons, the method and the price (yawn) and so on and so on. Jackie wants to kill Markie, but the mob wrings their hands…oh, the consternation---and for another scene or two they chew it over and over and over...again.