The economic and political state that we have been in affects everybody in some way. Killing Them Softly reflects this in the form of a crime thriller that follows a fairly simple plot, but writer/director Andrew Dominik has a lot to say with this project. He has made a bold mood making this film have such heavy political underpinnings, especially since it will split audiences down the middle. I'm definitely one of the viewers who truly enjoyed this feature. Dominik has delivered an incredibly well-crafted thriller with dark humor laced throughout. It kept me captivated from its opening scene until the credits started to roll. Unfortunately, a large amount of the film was left on the cutting room floor. This is a great film, but some of that footage could have been the solution to making this become a masterpiece.
Jackie Cogan (Brad Pitt) is an enforcer who has been hired by a man known as The Driver (Richard Jenkins). Jackie is being paid to assassinate three dumb criminals who rob a Mob protected card game. This one event caused the local criminal economy to collapse. Jackie requests Mickey (James Gandolfini) to help him with the job, but Mickey isn't what he used to be. With his addiction to alcohol and prostitutes, he has become absolutely useless. Jackie deals with numerous other issues, as he tries to complete the mission. He hates the emotional sloppiness of killing somebody, so he prefers killing them from a distance...killing them softly.
The story itself is very straight-forward, but that isn't always necessarily a bad thing. This thriller presents the repercussions of the crime through a variety of different characters' perspectives. It's difficult to piece it all together at first, but it begins to make sense after a little while. In its relatively short running time, Andrew Dominik has managed to develop strong roles. His dialogue is like an art form, as it reflects the movie and its messages to near perfection. Don't expect proper and clean dialogue, since these characters live in the crime world and their choice of words are as clean as the business they work in. The majority of this movie is dialogue, but it keeps audiences constantly engaged. There are a couple excellent monologues to be noted. The most memorable one is delivered towards the end of the movie, which will stick in your mind after the credits are done rolling. There's so much going on in this project and if you miss a single minute, you'll be lost during the remainder of the running time.
There's an incredible amount of tension held throughout the entire picture. The robbery sequence had me on the edge of my seat. You won't realize that you've been holding your breath until the dark humor begins to kick in. The comedic elements fit perfectly amongst the serious themes. Killing Them Softly's story transforms into a different vehicle when Mickey enters. The movie becomes less about the job and more about Jackie trying to keep Mickey under control. He's constantly trying to keep him away from alcohol and prostitutes, which doesn't work out very well. While this is when the pacing slows down a little bit, it isn't much of an issue. The one gripe I have with this feature is that it has some trouble holding its focus. This may be due to the fact that a lot of footage has been cut from the running time, which could have potentially contained more story growth and even stronger character development. While there are a lot of puzzle pieces spread about, quite a few of these pieces are missing, which makes it a bit difficult to make out the picture in its entirety.
Dominik's cast is composed of an absolutely stunning group of individuals who successfully bring this script to the big screen. Brad Pitt is spectacular as Jackie. He has definitely become a stronger actor with age. He pulls off this cool and calculated character perfectly. Richard Jenkins is outstanding as the Driver. Some of the greatest moments in the film are the conversations that take place between Jackie and the Driver. Pitt and Jenkins are as convincing as they could possibly be. James Gandolfini's performance as Mickey will have fans of mobster movies extremely happy. While his character doesn't have a lot of screen time, he brings an element to the film that feels classic. The acting is absolutely phenomenal from every member of the cast and Oscar-nominations wouldn't be out of the question.
The visuals accurately represent what the messages are trying to get across. All of the cinematography conveys the dirty nature of the story very well. There isn't a lot of action in Killing Them Softly, but a murder committed in slow-motion is noteworthy, which is usually a cliché for the action genre. However, it's used for a completely different purpose here. While the death is brutal, the shots of the bullets piercing rain droplets is absolutely beautiful. This moment in time is slowed down in order for the audience to witness what Jackie is seeing from his perspective. The audio is just as superb. This track earns its points with its subtle atmospheric sounds more than one would think. The sound has an incredible amount of detail. There are numerous scenes where the visuals feel like a form of poetry.
While this film isn't an absolute masterpiece, it's pretty close. Andrew Dominik's writing and direction are absolutely fantastic. His dialogue feels so authentic and he gets spectacular performances out of his cast. Unfortunately, it feels as if we're missing out on a portion of the story. There has been so much footage left on the cutting room floor that it sticks out like a sore thumb. Even with its cuts, this will be in the top ten of my favorite films of 2012. It's a brilliantly-crafted crime thriller that had me enthralled in every minute of it. Killing Them Softly feels like this year's Drive, which is a big compliment. This movie won't appeal to everybody, but it had me entirely captivated in its story and its characters. Highly recommended!