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Billy Summers: 'Killing them Softly' a run-of-the-mill action flick

Dec. 07, 2012 @ 01:16 PM

Director Andrew Dominik (“Chopper,” “The Assassination of the Coward Jesse James”) also wrote the screenplay for “Killing Them Softly,” which is the method that Brad Pitt’s character prefers over the “up close and personal” style of some of his fellow hit men.

But, to kill them sniper-style would make for a less satisfying action flick, so here we are.

This movie is nothing more than a run of the mill crime drama, with only minor amounts of drama.

Without Brad Pitt in the lead role, this movie would have never even been on anyone’s radar. He stars as an organized crime hit man, who is sent to find answers and kill the criminals who robbed a mob-connected poker game.

It’s like a bad episode of “The Sopranos,” which is made even more similar as it co-stars James Gandolfini (“The Sopranos,” “The Last Castle,” “8MM”) as an over-the-hill, alcoholic killer, and Vincent Curatola (“The Sopranos,” “Third Watch,” “Frame of Mind”) as low-rent criminal mastermind Johnny Amoto.

“Low Rent” is a key concept, here, as these criminals are not exactly your Hollywood mobsters. More Don Knotts, than Don Corleone, they are what most people “in the know” consider the majority of criminals to be...   

Bottom feeders, barely making it through the day, from one score, to the next.

This is portrayed pretty well by the two robbers of the poker game, played by Scoot McNairy (“In Search of a Midnight Kiss,” “Argo,” “Monsters”) as Frankie, the level headed one, and Ben Mendelsohn (“Killer Elite,” “The Dark Knight Rises,” “The Secret Life of Us”) as heroin addict, Russell.

These guys are your everyday hustlers, always looking for an easy buck. Director Dominik does get “it” right, with these two, but with everyone else, he blows it.

He sticks Ray Liotta (“Cop Land,” “Smokin’ Aces,” “Hannibal”) in as the “made man” who runs the poker game, looking EXACTLY as though Liotta’s character from “Goodfellas,” has left the Witness Protection Program and rejoined “the Life”.

Next, he lets (or forces) Pitt to play his same old stock self, the same character that he played in “Snatch,” “Ocean’s Eleven” (twelve and thirteen), and several other films.  

Hey, Pitt CAN act, just not here. He has played characters as varied as a vampire (“Interview with…), a young stud (“Thelma & Louise”), a total idiot (“Burn After Reading”), a decent detective (“Se7en”) and many other nice roles.

In “Killing Them Softly” he just breezes through it, like the class jock who got the test questions the night before the test.  Even HE looks bored throughout the movie.

The movie is without any major theme, action or motivation that we have not seen before. The only difference from every other “Heist, then Hit Man” movie is that there are no female characters here (with the exception of one small scene with a hooker).   

And that is another thing that Dominik may have gotten right. These guys are “men’s men,” people who use and abuse women whenever they want/need them, then toss them aside, while they go do Manly Things.

There is no Mrs. Criminal waiting at home, or the Girlfriend with the Heart of Gold, trying to pull a guy back to the honest world. Nah, who needs ‘em, not these guys. They have schemes to plan, heists to perform and banks to rob.

I will also give the director kudos for some of the action scenes, in particular the roughing up (twice) of Liotta’s character, Markie, as well as his demise, and also the poker game robbery was pretty well played. Most other scenes were pretty dull.

This is a small time movie about small time hoods, who are hunted by a small time hit man. The fact that it is as interesting as it is is a major coupe for all involved. But, as I said before, if Pitt’s gorgeous smirk wasn’t running across the screen throughout this entire movie, it would be “straight to video”…

Billy Summers is a freelance photographer who also reviews films for the Putnam Herald. He can be reached at summers855@yahoo.com.