Cannes: "Killing Them Softly" Amusing and Confusing

Killing Them Softly

I’m divided on “Killing Them Softly” a film by Director Andrew Dominik – the director of a previous critically acclaimed film that the general U.S. audience did not appreciate, The Assassination of Jesse James... Killing Them Softly on the surface is enjoyable and entertaining. It has moments of awkward and shockingly funny humor about sex with animals, men and women; comments about treating the mobster world as a corporation; and comments that tie the current political landscape with the gangster world.

The film is about a couple of amateur guys who have to face the consequences of robbing a poker game managed by a mobster. Jackie Cogan, a verbose and opinionated hitman, is hired to hunt them down and kill them using his eccentric killing them softly methods.

A couple steps under the surface lies a pretentious movie that throws in random political propaganda; because of its attempts to combine recent politics and economics into the movie, the tone and era feel confused and outdated, and James Gandolfini’s character is haphazardly thrown in only for comments about sex, booze and women. At first the conversations were fun; after a while, it became old, boring and pointless.

President Obama’s voice is heard promoting change, unity and financial stability throughout the movie, carried through static radio style more appropriate for the scandalous Nixon era. The old background music, dark often times monochromatic tones and outdated technology such as the security camera on Johnny’s desk, the older model television and lack of any cell phones or high tech gadgetries ubiquitous in the 21st century are indications of a film confused about the exact time period for the movie.

It feels more appropriate to be a pre-80’s style movie, but because the director combines anti-Obama slurs and Obama quotes to match some of the jokes about economic hardship, corporate structures or lack thereof, and sarcastic comments on unity and freedom of speech, it needed to take place in current day. The Jefferson speech by Jackie Cogan (Brad Pitt) towards the end of the movie did seemed out of place and necessary.

Aside from all that, I like the slow suspenseful style, the low key treatment of the mobster and hitmen world, and the wry sense of humor of the movie. The film moves along nicely yet it is never in a rush to do anything, helping to build suspense in the scenes -- the two young guys take their time stealing the movie; Squirrel walks us through his own demise while completely high and lost in his own world; and each character is killed slowly in style with sounds of glass falling like rhythmic music when one of them was shot through a car.

Overall, Killing Them Softly is both an amusing and confusing film.

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