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Movie review: 'Killing Them Softly'

‘Killing Them Softly' hammers its message home.
Oklahoman Published: November 30, 2012

Jackie brings in an old colleague, veteran hit man Mickey (James Gandolfini), to take out the robbers and send a message to the rest of the criminal world. The scenes these two actors share are by far the film's best, including one in which they sit at a bar and quietly catch up on everything from work to marriage to alcoholism; they're so different in tone from everything else, they feel like they're part of an entirely separate movie. Gandolfini's character is the only one who feels like a complete and complicated person: brazen and abusive but also sentimental and deeply insecure.

At the other end of the aesthetic spectrum is the artfully graphic pummeling some of these characters take, particularly Ray Liotta as the guy who runs the card game in question (and once got caught trying to rob it himself). The hard thwack of a fist against a jaw matches the pummel of rain and the splatter of blood. Bullets fire from a handgun in super-slow motion, piercing the raindrops, then a car window, then someone's skull. It's all very painstaking and cool-looking (the work of the gifted cinematographer Greig Fraser) but it also feels like part of a prevalent cynicism, given the film's heavy-handed message.

“America's not a country, it's just a business,” Jackie declares in the film's final monologue, a message “Killing Them Softly” already had hammered pretty hard during the previous hour and a half.

— Christy Lemire


MOVIE REVIEW

‘Killing Them Softly'

R1:372 stars

Starring: Brad Pitt, Ray Liotta, James Gandolfini, Richard Jenkins. (Violence, sexual references, pervasive language and some drug use)

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