It was only a matter of time until I would have to review something put forward by The Weinstein Company. Films distributed by this company are almost guaranteed to garner some Oscar nominations, if not some definite wins.
However, much like a life preserver in a violent sea, Weinstein can only do so much to ensure the critical and financial success of what comes across as a higher budget indie film.
Killing Them Softly stars Brad Pitt as a hit man hired to take out three rookies who rob an underground poker game run by the Mafia. The entire story plays out during the outset of the economic recession. The cast also includes Ray Liotta, James Gandolfini, Scoot McNairy and Ben Mendelsohn.
The first thing I notice is how the film almost tries to beat you over the head with the fact that it’s set during the start of the recession. There is an overabundance of CSPAN and CNN clips used throughout the film. The clips aren’t even mixed well with the film both audibly and visually, leading to some really weird editing choices.
Another thing I also noticed is the constant use of “Tarantino-ing,” where the characters’ conversations don’t actually move the story along or give us exposition, but are instead supposed to give us insights into their personalities through realistic tangents and chit-chat.
Having one scene with that writing practice is okay, but when you have a character who, in the few scenes he’s in, appears to exist for the sole purpose of Tarantino-ing, it makes those scenes feel pointless.
The performances are pretty good. Character reactions and responses to the messed up scenarios are realistic, but there’s not too much to write home about. Most of the film is focused on Pitt, despite it trying to partially focus on the unlucky few who robbed the card game.
One thing I can give this film credit for is the visuals
The director does some creative things with certain shot styles and composition techniques. The problem is that parts of the film feel like they are made in a style completely separate from the rest of the film.
While the artistic choices make some sense, the overall scheme of the cinematography feels like someone just had different ideas for creative shots that the movie was written around. In addition to the style clash, the film also has a few continuity errors that, while minor, are noticeable enough to be a little annoying.
Now don’t get me wrong, there are some worthwhile scenes here and there, and the final scene features a quotable line. The first Tarantino-ing in the film is also pretty good and relatively subtle.
Overall, Killing Them Softly is kind of boring. Yes, there are some good bits, but the film drags at a few points and the overall structure is the biggest drawback. The sound mixing for the news clips doesn’t mesh well with the film and just feels like overkill.
You’ll find a good scene here and there if you’re a hardcore cinephile, but mainstream movie-goers are most likely not going to be as invested, meaning this film’s going to need some serious Oscar buzz to get people in the theater.