MOVE REVIEW: ‘Killing Them Softly’ gives unexpected take on gangland life

By M. Scott Morris/NEMS Daily Journal

When I walked up to the ticket counter and asked for directions to “Killing Them Softly,” the man said, “It’s not what you expect.”
I said, “What do I expect.”
He said, “A gangster movie with a lot of fighting and shooting. Well, it is that, but … you’ll see.”
He was right. It is a gangster film, but not like any I’ve seen.
Brad Pitt stars as Jackie, a hit man who’s come to town to take care of a few problems for the local mob.
Three guys came up with a plan to rob a mob-controlled card game, and all of the card games are shut down until Jackie takes care of business and people can have confidence in the games again.
I meant for the end of that last sentence to echo a phrase we heard often during our financial meltdown: “Confidence in the markets again.”
With brilliant use of sound editing, director Andrew Dominik’s gangland story plays in parallel with the 2008 financial crisis.
But it doesn’t get too high-minded. The Squirrel (Vincent Curatola) is a schemer who probably doesn’t care who gets hurt as long as he gets paid. Frankie (Scoot McNairy) and Russell (Ben Mendelsohn) are lowlifes who carry out the job. It doesn’t take long before Jackie’s after all three of them.
Markie (Ray Liotta) is also on the list. Everyone agrees he did nothing wrong, but for the sake of “confidence in the games again” an example has to be made.
None of the gangsters seem happy to do what needs to be done during these downtimes. A couple of toughs hired to teach Markie a lesson actually like the guy, but they still teach a bloody and brutal lesson.
Jackie wants to help out another hit man, Mickey (James Gandolfini), who’s going through a bad patch with a wife who wants a divorce and a federal government with a pretty good case.
It’s fascinating and darkly humorous to watch their mundane conversations play out, especially since they’re also talking about committing murder.
Richard Jenkins shows up as a mob lawyer who has regular meetings with Jackie. All of their scenes are perversely funny, though maybe not of the laugh-out-loud variety.
As the name implies, “Killing Them Softly” is a slow-burn film. There’s fighting and killing and cussing, as you’d expect in a gangster movie, but it also travels territory you probably don’t expect. The whole story has a weird ring of authenticity to it – the banality of evil, indeed.
I give “Killing Then Softly” an A minus.
It’s showing at Malcos in Tupelo, Oxford, Corinth and Columbus, as well as Hollywood Premier Cinemas.
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