Compared to the vast majority of films released these days, Killing Them Softly is a straight-forward, no nonsense and short film; there aren’t any twists, no over the top gun battles, screaming or shouting.
The film shows three down-and-out young criminals steal money from the Mob and an mercenary hitman is hired to restore the ensuing financial turmoil.
Set in 2008, recession-struck America, the film is bleakly shot and casually paced. Director Andrew Dominik (famous for another American orientated feature: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, a film I am ashamed to say I found long and tedious) does his best to shoot this bleak, loveless world with artistry, and it is short enough to not outstay its welcome.
But there is one thing that bothers me, and that is the film’s intense political angle. Regardless of the metaphors and allegories one could read into the characters and their actions, the film’s relatively narrow focus on localized crime stupidity is juxtaposed with archive footage of George W. Bush and Barack Obama making speeches. Brad Pitt’s business-orientated hitman pessimistically snapping at what he hears, as it turns out all mobsters and local bars watch political speeches 24/7.
The film’s casual nature and dark setting does wonders for the gun action when it happens. The shooting is what it is; short, blunt, unforgiving and horrific. There is one set piece were the director uses slow-motion beautifully. Rather randomly, all things considered, but wonderfully executed in this day and age where slow-mo is abused without end.
If you like traditional, no frills crime thrillers, you can do worse (and if you are looking for a cynical, pessimistic view on American politics, you’ll love it!) I can’t say it riveted me, the political sledge-hammering was far too blaring, but watching it doesn’t feel wasteful either.