October 27, 2012

Killing Them Softly

I didn’t know until after I saw it that Andrew Dominik’s Killing Them Softly is adapted from a book from the 70s (Cogan’s Trade by George V Higgins), which accounts for its odd temporal disjunction: the big 70s American cars, the 70s-era urban rot and depressed ambience, against the super-obviousness of the Obama-era recession backdrop. Maybe it would have made more sense to have a resigning Nixon on the TV screens and soundtrack. Recession-era commentary aside, Killing Them Softly mostly feels like great acting in search of a story. Brad Pitt is marquee name and producer; he both looks the part and can speak the pulp dialogue (Dominik’s previous two films are also legendary-killer films: Chopper and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford), Ben Mendelsohn is one of cinema’s most realistic drug addicts (dopey, sleepy, greasy), Ray Liotta is Ray Liotta, Scoot McNairy has the innocence and the instability of the young Brad Dourif, but the best of the lot might be James Gandolfini’s Mickey, a washed-out, drunk, sad killer flown into town for a job that he probably can’t manage. You might even feel like you’ve missed him.