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Killing Them Softly

In America, you're on your own.  

Year: 2012 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 (Scope) 
Certificate: BBFC 18 Cert – Not suitable for under 18s 
Subtitles: This film is not expected to be subtitled, though this cannot be guaranteed. 
Directed by Andrew Dominik 
Starring: Brad Pitt, Ray Liotta, Richard Jenkins  
An image from Killing Them Softly

One of the most starkly compelling films of 2012, Killing Them Softly excels in depicting a seedy, uncompromising American underworld in a way few other films can match.

Brad Pitt shines as the derisive Jackie Cogan, a mob enforcer sent after a couple of lowlifes responsible for the robbery of an illegal card game. The thieves, played to loathsome effect by Scoot McNairy and Ben Mendelsohn, are, like most of the characters, difficult to sympathize with; Mendelsohn’s Australian stoner in particular is sleazy, dirty and appears to embrace his corruption more than common sense. However, the strength of the acting is clear in this achievement of the completely unlikeable, whether it’s the coldness of Cogan’s accomplice the Driver (Richard Jenkins), or James Gandolfini’s untrustworthy gangster. As the drama unfolds to its explosive conclusion, the major theme of personal greed seriously benefits from the success of this characterization.

Violence regularly punctuates the bleak atmosphere of the film with amazing stylized moments: one memorable scene involves a drive-by shooting occurring entirely in slow motion, adding impact to every falling raindrop and blood spatter. Another sees a man being beaten in a manner reminiscent of The Killer Inside Me. The effect may be too brutal for some, but it perfectly compliments the amoral and dangerous criminality that rules everything in Cogan’s world. Even his central philosophy, that it’s better to kill “softly” from a distance, smacks more of trying to protect his own integrity than that of his victim. It’s twisted, but completely engaging to watch the dog-eat-dog results as he systematically hunts down his targets.

Ultimately, the film’s cynical jabs and unforgiving cruelty may not be palatable for some, but for everyone else Killing Them Softly represents original filmmaking that literally benefits from its inability to pull punches.

Joe Baker

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Screenings of this film:

2012/2013 Spring Term (35mm)
2012/2013 Spring Term (35mm)