Killing Them Softly (R16)

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Review byMatthew Turner21/09/2012

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 97 mins

Impressively directed and superbly written, this is a highly entertaining, pleasingly literate thriller with terrific performances from a note-perfect cast.

What's it all about?

Directed by Andrew Dominik (The Assassination of Jesse James), Killing Them Softly is based on a novel by George V. Higgins (Cogan's Trade, the film's original title) and set, very pointedly, in the autumn of 2008, during the Presidential election. Scoot McNairy and Ben Mendelsohn play low-life criminals Frankie and Russell, who agree to rob a card game organised by local gangster Markie (Ray Liotta), on the assumption that Markie himself will get the blame as he'd pulled a similar trick in the past.

However, though the heist goes off without a hitch, the plan to blame Markie doesn't quite pan out and mob fixer Driver (Richard Jenkins) calls in hitman Jackie Cogan (Brad Pitt) to investigate the robbery and deal with whoever's responsible. Jackie, in turn, hires his old cohort Mickey (James Gandolfini) - partly because he doesn't like killing people he knows and partly because Mickey needs the work - but when Mickey turns out to be a wreck, Jackie gets on with the job himself.

The Good
The performances are excellent, particularly McNairy and Mendelsohn, who are both splendidly weaselly in markedly different ways (McNairy is by some distance the more sympathetic of the two). Brad Pitt is equally good as Cogan, bringing a slightly harder edge to his usual laid-back screen persona and there's strong support from Liotta and the ever-reliable Jenkins, while Gandolfini almost steals the entire film with a terrific supporting turn that could almost serve as an epilogue to The Sopranos.

The intelligent, pleasingly literary script is packed with great dialogue and if the metaphorical associations between the onscreen action and the state of America in 2008 (TVs and radios are constantly blaring election reports, discussion about the financial crisis and so on) are a little heavy-handed at times, they do at least pay off in a terrific final scene.

The Great
The film is also impressively shot, with Greig Fraser's murky cinematography giving the film a subtle 1970s feel that works well. It's also brilliantly structured and Dominik orchestrates a number of superb sequences, including a stylishly soundtracked slow-motion shooting, a sweatily tense heist scene and handful of powerful shock moments.

Worth seeing?
Killing Them Softly is a brilliantly directed, superbly acted and thoroughly satisfying thriller that's rich in both character and dialogue. Highly recommended.

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Killing Them Softly (R16)
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Content updated: 26/02/2020 23:43

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