Killing Them Softly is the kind of movie that makes audiences hate movie critics. With a 77% convincingly fresh rating on RottenTomatoes, the new Brad Pitt crime drama appears like a movie worth seeing. The movie flopped in its opening weekend, however - the worst debut for Pitt in a long time. Many pundits said it was because people don't want to see the actor playing against type. I blamed the marketing, or lack thereof. But there's a simpler factor at play...
Killing Them Softly is just a terrible movie.
What drew the likes of Brad Pitt to a movie like this is hard to comprehend. The film is about a couple of young crooks who rob a mafia-protected card game. Pitt plays the enforcer who is brought in to make a statement and take care of business.
Simple plot. That doesn't sound so bad.
Except... for... nothing... f**king... happens. There are a couple of ultra-violent murder scenes, but they are mere drops of red against a bleak backdrop of unlikable and uninteresting characters who have no story arc nor purpose. Director Andrew Dominik subjects his audience to long, aimless dialogues that are so pitifully boring that I zoned out twice and started licking under the theater seats to occupy myself in one scene where a wasted James Gandolfini talks to his pal about a booker he's in love with. The scene has no purpose. In another, Dominik takes us into the mind of a junkie and literally fades the movie in and out of his consciousness, ironically capturing my immediate experience eerily well.
Pitt's character does little of interest, and is as flat and unremarkable as characters get. I am pretty certain Dominik blackmailed him into the role, but I can't yet be sure. If I mysteriously disappear after publishing this review, you know where to look.
Set amidst the 2008 presidential election and early-era recession, the movie also feels years out of date. Any message DOminik was trying to tell with the constant barrage of television clips of Bush and Obama was lost, or never realized.
Killing Them Softly is a dreadful movie. Its visual intrigue fails to make up for its aimless storytelling and lack of protagonists. Seventy-seven percent of critics gave this movie a thumbs up. For now, I hate critics, too.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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