‘Killing Them Softly’ light on action, heavy on cynicism

By Austin Flynn

The week after Thanksgiving is often Hollywood’s week off. Major releases hit the week before, and Hollywood begins Christmas preparations.

This week brings audiences the limited-release drama “Killing Them Softly,” a mobster movie set in post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans. Brad Pitt plays a hitman assigned to take out two small-time mobsters who have robbed a big-time mobster. Much has been said about the film’s slow pace and overly violent content, but is it still worth a watch?

Karsten Burgstahler: “Killing Them Softly” is a deliberately slow film. Writer/director Andrew Dominik takes his time introducing the characters, and he makes it clear to the audience this story is a bleak one. At numerous times, we hear Barack Obama and George W. Bush speech snippets, which help authenticate the setting. New Orleans suffered a horrible economic rebuilding after Katrina, and “Softly” shows characters who will do anything to put their lives back together. This isn’t the movie for Friday night entertainment. The violence, while minimal, is pretty brutal.


Austin Flynn: The violence didn’t really bother me because of how much discussion the film contains. I love the film’s dialogue because even when the characters are talking about something unimportant, it’s more than enough to keep me interested. When the actual killing comes along, I think it’s done both well and purposefully. The parts I had the most trouble with were cinematography issues. I know “Softly” is supposed to be one of those “artsy fartsy” flicks, but the fading in and out and cuts in some scenes were just downright bizarre. They weren’t terrible, but they were just off-putting enough to make me forget about the movie for a minute, which in this case is bad because of how much dialogue the viewer takes in.

KB: Yeah, the scene where the movie allows the viewer to watch from a heroin junkie’s viewpoint is shot funky. But I think it’s supposed to add to the confusion and create tension. The audience only gets bits and pieces of dialogue during the sequence, which is an interesting take. One scene that involves a murder in a car was shot in slow motion and quite impressive, but I would agree that sometimes the camera shots go overboard. Dominik could have gotten his point across differently. I guess I expected those kinds of shots because it is, as you put it so eloquently, an “artsy farsty” flick.

AF: To continue with the dialogue, though, I have to say I really enjoyed the believable, beautifully average moments between Brad Pitt and Richard Jenkins as they talk about killing these people. There’s a Tarantino-style back and forth between the two, which I think brought the film down to earth. Also, the actors were all great picks for their roles. Pitt specializes in characters like this, and he’s still the smug, slightly insane actor we all grew to appreciate even after his Chanel commercials.

KB: I really did like the dialogue, but audiences may be put off by it. Pitt’s character is very cynical. Several dialogue-driven scenes are dedicated to the character’s beliefs on America and what we really stand for as a country. The film contains few happy moments and fittingly ends on a cynical note. This is why I say the film is not Friday night entertainment; it is meant to be contemplated and discussed. Audiences may have the same reaction here that they had to last year’s dialogue-heavy “Drive,” which is why the film’s academy chances are slim. “Softly” is an interesting period piece, but it isn’t popcorn entertainment. Skip it at the theater; just check out the DVD.

1hr 40min? – ?Rated R? – ?Suspense?