Film: ‘Killing Them Softly’ (2012)

The Weinstein Company

Any thriving business arguably owes a good part of its success to Saturnine measures: firm management and a strict protocol of following rules and weeding out trouble makers. Why should neighborhood mob activities be any different?

In “Killing Them Softly,” Andrew Dominik’s riveting and brutally ugly movie about an ill-fated mob-sponsored card game, the rigors of running a tight shop apply. Jackie (Brad Pitt) is the enforcer who’s been called in to get to the bottom of the puzzling heist, which threatens the local mob economy.

Markie Trattman (Ray Liotta), who runs the card game, robbed his own game several years back. Soundly penalized for that transgression, he’s been playing it straight since then. However, another mobster figures that if Trattman’s card game were robbed a second time, all fingers would point to Trattman. Enter two grunts – Frankie (Scoot McNairy) and Russell (Ben Mendelsohn) – who’ll take that card game down.

The movie shifts between the savagery involving the crime itself, the pursuit of the innocent Trattman, and the activities of the moronic pair of robbers who revel in having hit pay dirt. Then there’s Jackie and his corporately dressed overseer Driver (Richard Jenkins) talking over management techniques like consultants who happen to be discussing capital improvements. You’ve got the supervisors, the underlings, the outsourced workers – a business hierarchy that’s no stranger to Saturn – set against documentary-style news footage that talks about the necessity for fiscal responsibility (Saturn).

Jackie talks about his preference for “killing them [his assassination targets] softly” – from a distance (Saturn), which, for him, keeps the hits impersonal (Saturn). Dominik, however, insists on closer audience participation to view this underbelly, bleakly epitomized in Russell’s impossibly greasy face. Just like after a tough day at work (Saturn), you’ll need a long hot shower after this one.

Rating: ♄ (Saturn)

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