Willie Waffle is the movie critic for people who hate movie critics.

Killing Them Softly - I Want Brad Pitt's Hair - Review

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killingthemsoftlyposter.jpgYou can tell writer/director Andrew Dominik has spent hours upon hours watching Quentin Tarantino movies.  He's got the vibe down.  Same with the attitude, dialogue, origins and scenery, but he didn't quite get his hands wrapped around the storytelling element.

Brad Pitt stars as Jackie - a tough guy mob enforcer and hitman with the world's greatest hair.   Three local small time crooks, Frankie (Scoot "It's hard to take a man seriously when he is named Scoot" McNairy), Russell (Ben Mendelsohn) and Johnny (Vincent Curatola) have teamed up to rob a local, mob run, high stakes card game supervised by Markie (Ray Liotta).  If you have ever watched The Sopranos, you know what happens to people who knock over a mob run, high stakes card games.  

Now, somebody has to pay, and Jackie is ready to make it happen with some help from Mickey (James Gandolfini). 

Killing Them Softly (based on the novel by George V. Higgins) is a half hour story stretched out to an hour and a half using excessive pointlessness, which is entertaining half the time, and wasteful of such great acting talent the other half.

All of the characters are very familiar and feel ripped directly from classic film noir and Tarantino.  It's not a bad idea to embrace that style, and it is fun to watch these degenerates stumbling around through life with their vices and issues.  However, not all of Dominik's long monologues will make you want to hear more.  

Often times, Dominik gives us an excess of talking which seems much cooler if you are a little high or drunk.  It's like he is padding the script to extend the work to movie length, when some brevity might have made it more thrilling.  

Also, Dominik puts tons of focus on the look of Killing Them Softly, but not enough focus on the story.  He could submit the movie as his Master's thesis at film school and be very proud (and get an A for editing, shooting and use of slo mo).  Yet, it's an extremely basic story with no big twists and turns and no real complications that is too straightforward and not shocking enough.  Sure, it looks pretty, but to what end?  

The worst part of Killing Them Softly is Dominik's insistence on trying to show some parallels between the 2008 election and economic collapse with the plot on screen involving the troubles the criminal element is facing in a shrinking economy.  If I want to think more about the ramifications of the economic downturn, I can read The Wall Street Journal.  It would make more sense and impact.  
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But, the actors keep Killing Them Softly from being a failure.  Ray Liotta is a perfect weasel as the guy who runs the card game.  Gandolfini does a great job capturing the anger and depression his hitman character is riding into oblivion and failure.  Meanwhile, Pitt is such a great leading man taking command of the screen with his big speeches, but, also, standing out of the way and supporting when others have their turn to shine.  

Every actor in this movie can use parts of it to promote themselves for future roles, and Dominik, who also directed the FANTASTIC and little seen The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford, can use some highlights to secure his next gig, as long as someone helps with the script. 

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2 Waffles (Out of 4)

Killing Them Softly is rated R for violence, sexual references, pervasive language, and some drug use