A blackest of black comedies about the revenge organised crime exacts against some thieves who stole from them, set against the recent collapse of the global banking system. In both cases, confidence in the system needs to be restored. In only one do those responsible pay the price. “It’s not what you do,” as one of the characters says, “It’s what other people think you’ve done.”
There is some superb acting from a fantastic cast. James Gandolfini’s portrayal of emotional disintegration as an unreliable hitman, Scoot McNairy’s frightened, weak, and human petty thief, and Ben Mendelsohn’s pathetically realistic drug addict who’s hopeless empty existence revolves around implausible schemes to make money, are all outstanding. Among them, Brad Pitt’s coldy amused and business-like hitman comes across as less consistent and less well-rounded. However, he easily dominates the final scenes and his delivery of the final dialogue, the knockout punch of the whole film, is wonderful.
Among all this is the sheer banality of crime, the utter lack of imagination, the inability to conceive of consequences before actions that doom the them. Some of these characters are so low they are standing under the barrel, looking up at the bottom and thinking it’s the sky.
In the scope that this film gives the actors room to act, Killing Them Softly feels like an American “44-Inch Chest”, another gangster film I really like (though with a very different moral outcome). And, perhaps strangely, it also bears comparison to Ralph Feinnes “Coriolanus”, as well as the obvious influence of Tarantino’s bantering style from films like Pulp Fiction.
Killing Them Softly is theatrical in style, in that it is dialogue heavy, and it does also take a good few minutes to get up to speed with a prolonged opening explanation of the setup. Once past that the story, dialogue and acting are absorbing and tense.
A film as bleak and cynical as they come, and filled with good performances, I greatly enjoyed this.