Killing Them Softly

Andrew Dominik's "Killing Them Softly" is a briny and not entirely satisfying diversion that has the feel of a Guy Ritchie film but without the narrative complexity or humor.  "Killing" bears some resemblance to Dominik's movie from 2007, "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford," a lugubrious nearly three hour study of the title characters and fatal event that features yards and yards of dense introspection. Killing, though not nearly as long as "Assassination," is also talky and stars Brad Pitt, who appeared in "Assassination" and Richie's "Snatch." In "Killing," Pitt  is a wet worker hired by the Mob to clean up the mess created by an amateurish hit on one of the syndicate's many poker enterprises. He's told that the games are on hold until the culprits are dispatched. So, time is of the essence. Even so, Dominik is a patient director with a taste for lengthy set pieces, the most interesting in "Killing" are the tense initial poker house robbery, an excruciating pummeling of a witless mobster (Ray Liotta) during a downpour, and a riveting 15-minute cocktail conversation between Pitt's Jackie and a boozing, forlorn sociopath named Mickey, played to perfection by James Gandolfini. Dominik has crafted a manly film that is not altogether satisfying and, inexplicably, has as a backdrop the Wall Street collapse and presidential election of 2008. The movie's odd coda, despite being a surprisingly astute assessment of America's national obsession, doesn't quite fit Pitt's character or the film, for that matter. Bloody, explosive violence and unceasing use of the F-word makes this movie a decidedly adult affair.


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