In his third directorial effort, writer/director Andrew Dominik (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford) takes on a world of violence, mobsters, and lowlifes in a compelling genre flick that has way more than meets the eye.

'Killing Them Softly' follows two small time crooks that are offered a pay day to rob a mob based poker game. Things take a turn for the worst when the mobsters hire an “enforcer” named Jackie Cogan (Brad Pitt) to track down the crooks and get even.

Right from the get-go the viewer will notice a strong political presence as the movie takes place during the 2008 presidential election and financial crisis. Almost all of the background noise in the film is either a television or a radio playing snippets from a political news cast. This is not to preach about politics, but to create the feel of a modern day depression. Some of the more gruesome scenes are even scored with depression era music and it really sets the tone.

The cinematography in this film is flawless. Director of photography Greig Fraser manages to keep the camera calm during chaotic scenes and this causes a strange sense of urgency which ultimately forces you to invest even more emotion into the movie.

The writing is comparable to the likes of 'Pulp Fiction', with stretched dialogue that holds no punches and will have you laughing hysterically or grimacing with disgust at what you have just heard. This is largely due to the stellar performances from a strong cast. In fact James Gandolfini’s portrayal of a washed up insecure hit man is one of his best roles to date, full of explicit dialogue and vivid storytelling. Also, it wouldn’t come as a shock if Brad Pitt lands an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Jackie Cogan.

The verdict = WOW.

Overall, 'Killing Them Softly' tells a great story, and it tells it well. Aside from some lengthy dialogue this movie pleases from every angle. It is definitely one of this year’s top ten.

'Killing Them Softly' is Rated R for extreme violence, pervasive language and drug use and is now in theaters.


This movie was reviewed by Zackary N. Keene, a filmmaker, critic, writer and musician from Abilene, TX.

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