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Killing Them Softly with his gun....
Killing Them Softly (DVD)
Member Name: Jojoborne
Killing Them Softly (DVD)
Advantages: Superb direction; a master class in the art.
Disadvantages: may be a little dull for some as it is dialogue based.
When I think of movies that I have enjoyed for the direction as much as the plot or storyline there are a few that come to mind; Scorsese's legendary steady cam shot and slow motion shots in 'Goodfellas', Tarantino's use of layering in the 'Kill Bill' movies, Alfred Hitchcock's use of light and shadow to create suspense in 'Psycho' and too many Spike Lee, Tom Tykwer and Pedro Almodovar movies to mention. From the very first time I saw 'Cinema Paradiso' I fell in love with film and its direction.
So, to be honest, when I popped this on my popcorn player I wasn't expecting anything apart from a mildly entertaining foray into the world of organised or more likely disorganised crime. All I knew was that it starred Brad Pitt and James Gandolfini and knew little else about the movie, including who had directed or written it. Before I get into my thoughts on the movie, let's take a look at the plot.
Frankie (Scoot McNairy) is an ex-con looking to get back on his feet, He is not the most unsavoury character you could ever meet but he is no angel either. Times are hard and the economy is taking a nose-dive. Obama is making his 'Yes we can' speech all over the United States. So, when small-time gangster Johnny Amato (Vincent Curatola) comes up with a brainwave on holding up a card game held by fellow mobster Marky Trattman (Ray Liotta), Frankie agrees. Amato asks Frankie to get himself an accomplice to carry out the job. Amato has chosen Trattman's game because Trattman once held up his own game so if it happens again, suspicion will fall on him. Unfortunately, Frankie chooses an accomplice in the form of a heroin-addict drop-out named Russell (Ben Mendelsohn), who proves to be the weak link that eventually lands the three crooks in trouble and on a hit-list that is pursued by enforcer Jackie Cogan (Brad Pitt). Jackie is a cool, cold and calculated killer that no one would ever dream of crossing. Pitt plays this part with a slight hint of humour in a black-comedy sort of role that is taught with menace. He is a criminal that is fed up to the back teeth of what has become of his profession and intends to put things right in more ways than one.
I thought this movie was brilliantly directed and I am not just talking about the clever use of several cameras and a load of cool and trendy trademark techniques. The way the film is shot as a whole is superb. From the very first scenes you know that you are in for a cinematic treat, at least in celluloid terms. In an early scene Russel is walking a small dog along the footpath to meet Frankie and the street is steeped in dry tones and a hint of sepia that really gives it that dawn mood. This becomes more evident as he walks up towards a traffic light which is on red and the red just splits the whole scene and you appreciate just what a great shot it is.
It is blatantly obvious that the director, Andrew Dominik is indulging himself through his work and what we get is a movie that is steeped in craft and a piece of film that could easily be described as a piece of art. There are a lot of Tarantinoesque shots and scenes but only in the sense that they are both artful and powerful, not to mention realistic. The dialogue is more serious than Tarantino's in that the characters are more grounded in reality than a Reservoir Dog, a Vincent or a Jules.
That is one of the great things about this movie; the fact that the dialogue is so serious kind of makes it even more earth shatteringly beautiful when the scene takes on a directive dive into creativity.
Andrew Dominik has of course worked with Brad Pitt before in 'The assassination of Jesse James by the coward Robert Ford' and this is not lost on Pitt's pull in this movie.
So what did I think of the film. Well as far as it goes I quite liked it. It kept me interested and the direction was good enough to make that happen regardless of the plot. These gangster/criminal type movies are ten to a penny but if you're expecting an out and out gangster flick then you will be sorely disappointed. I think many viewers were or will be drawn in by the trailer as it does indeed make it look like one of those types of films but nothing could be further from the truth.
Pitt plays it cool and nonchalant in his role and it works. He makes Jackie seem almost frightening in his matter of fact look at the world and his way of going about business that most of us would find sickening. He puts in another solid performance but I expected nothing less as Pitt has to be one of the best actors around at the minute.
James Gandolfini plays a cringe-worthy has been hit man to a tee and the lead role of Frankie by Scott McNairy is played by an actor who was seemingly punching above his weight but ended the movie with credibility. He so reminded me of a young Mickey Rourke in this movie with a little Bruce Willis thrown in. He pulls off the role excellently as does his supporting actor Ben Mendelsohn as the annoying and desperate Russel.
Ray Liotta plays the sleazy yet somehow likeable Trattman well and the scene where he gets beaten up is quite hard hitting.
The script was written by Dominik and based on the novel 'Cogan's Trade' by George V. Higgins. It is cleverly adapted and quite witty in parts and I enjoyed rolling along with it to the next master class in direction.
Playing as a back drop to the whole movie is Obama's speech and the lead up to his election as President. Pitt's character adds to this and we get some political banter and some world issues thrown into the mix of hit men and criminals. So, as I mentioned already, if you're after an out and out gangster movie then this really isn't for you.
I would recommend it and I quite enjoyed the movie but I don't feel that many will agree with me but I can only hope that people give it a fair chance as the direction alone makes it worth watching.
Four out of five stars from me, mainly due to the direction and script writing and a good cast of actors.
Summary: A well directed movie with some first class acting.