Out & About

December 13, 2012

Crime movie set amid politics doesn't work

Making a violent, moody crime flick about a heist gone bad wasn’t enough for director Andrew Dominik.

His followup to the awkwardly titled “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” also had to be about … something. Thus “Killing Them Softly” became a hard-boiled crime flick that is also a political allegory played out against the 2008 presidential election and Wall Street’s financial meltdown.

Unfortunately, the combination doesn’t really work.

Brad Pitt stars (and also co-produces) as Jackie Cogan, a mob enforcer brought in to clean things up after a pair of bumbling hoods knock over a big-money poker game.

Pitt’s Jackie is calm and calculating, intelligent and mostly good-natured. He doesn’t like things to get messy, and he’s good at what he does.

Scoot McNairy (“Argo”) plays Frankie, a skittish small-time crook who is totally over his head, and is the film’s nominal sympathetic figure. Ben Mendelsohn is his poorly chosen partner in crime, Aussie junkie and dog-napper Russell.

Ray Liotta is a welcome sight as the man who runs the illegal game and knows how to take a helacious beating.

“Killing Them Softly” is stylish and atmospheric, with some clever dialogue, but it doesn’t have a lot of substance. It has the feel of a vanity piece — one of those where someone like James Gandolfini has a couple of free days, so he comes in and films two scenes with Brad Pitt and then gets out, without interacting with anyone else.

In this case, Gandolfini is Mickey, a hard-drinking, aging hit man called in to help Pitt with his job. It’s an interesting part, but goes absolutely nowhere.

Dominik also takes pains to hit the viewer over the head with the political overtones. Every TV and radio playing in every bar and vehicle is blaring some political speech from Barack Obama or George Bush or John McCain, and Pitt wraps up the movie with a pointed speech that seems like it’s supposed to have heavy meaning but doesn’t.

There is good stuff in “Killing Them Softly,” but it’s not always easy to see.

Rental Recommendation: Pitt is hilariously stupid in the Coen Brothers movie “Burn After Reading.” Grade: B-plus.

Email Steve Ouellette:

Text Only | Photo Reprints

Steve Ouellette's Movie Reviews

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Entertainment Videos
'Modern Family' Star on Gay Athletes Coming Out The Rock Brings Star Power to Premiere Uzo Aduba Says Emmy Nod Is 'Crazy' EPA Gets Hip With Kardashian Tweet Bush: Don't Worry, Sugarland Isn't Breaking Up Mirren Not Thrilled to Play 'The Queen' on B'way The Rock Finds His Inner 'Hercules' ShowBiz Minute: Hoffman, Oberst, Box Office Shawn Mendes Jumps From Vine to the Music Charts Cook Shifts Gears in 'Planes: Fire and Rescue' ShowBiz Minute: Stritch, Marvel, Beyonce ShowBiz Minute: Cole, JWoww, Box Office ShowBiz Minute: Garner, Backstreet, George 'Weird Al' Is Wowed by Album's Success Legendary Actor James Garner Dies 'Pageant' Star Nick Cearley on Show, Skivvies Roger Ebert Doc a Surprise Summer Hit First Lady Salutes Monae ShowBiz Minute: Cranston, Obama, Howard Kruger on Where 'The Bridge' Leads in Season 2
CVPH Job Opportunities