Saturday, December 8, 2012

Killing Them Softly

Some low-level thugs get the bright idea to knock over a card game run by some high-level thugs and are hunted down by the high level thugs.

Sure, we've seen it before. But have we seen it with the 2008 financial collapse?

Meh. Probably.

This was an okay movie to watch. Brad Pitt was the world-weary hit man just trying to get "the games" going again. The great Richard Jenkins is the middle-manager who contracts him out, but is squeamish about the whole killing thing. James Gandolfini is the past-his-prime hitman who can't get his act together enough to do a simple job. Ray Liotta is the hapless card-game runner who gets framed, and must pay the price even though everyone knows he didn't do it.

There are more than a few weaknesses here, though.

The Flower said, "Who was the main character?" It was Brad Pitt's character, of course, but he doesn't show up for about 15 minutes into the film and his character arc is non-existent.  James Gandolfini's character is literally pointless. Arguably, he sets up the final confrontation between Jenkins and Pitt, but the character could've served that purpose without ever showing up on screen.

It's sort of funny to suggest that a fairly short movie (about an hour and a half) could be padded, but it sort of is. Not just by Gandolfini's character, but by scads of transitional scenes over which snippets of Bush and Obama's speechifying are played.

Which gets to the film's biggest weakness: It has all the subtlety of a chainsaw, and yet manages to be completely incoherent at the allegorical level it struts around at.

Y'see, the whole thing is a metaphor for America. The card game represents the business of America, and the low-level thugs who rip it off are, presumably Wall Street. Ray Liotta—I'm not sure who he's supposed to be, but someone who's ripped off the economy before but was innocent this time. Gandolfini is the fat, aging, undisciplined American middle-class and Richard Jenkins is the middle manager for ruthless corporate interests. Pitt is the hard-headed realists is calls it as he sees it, but who gets screwed over by the system. There's a reference to "the street" which is probably meant to be the populace at large, that must be mollified if the games are to go on.

Then, in case you didn't get the message, Pitt closes the movie with an "I hate America" rant about Thomas Jefferson sleeping with his slaves. (Which, frankly, I doubt.)

So, we've got sophomoric political ideology delivered clumsily combined with slow-mo gratuitous extreme violence.

I'd say it's a heady mix if you're a teenager but The Boy wasn't particularly impressed.

The problem, of course, of taking a 1974 movie about thugs and grafting it to a 2008 political allegory is that all of the characters are scum, is that you end up with something completely nihilistic. To say nothing of confusing.

I mean, Pitt's a scumbag. He's likable, 'cause he's Brad Pitt, and he's got something of a work ethic. But he's a hit man, killing pretty harmless people. But if you're meant to identify with him, well, he's got nothing good to say about Obama either. (I'm presuming this is coming from the far left because of the TJ rant but it wouldn't have to be.)

So, you know. It's got some technical merit but I don't think I'd recommend it for anyone who wasn't an 18-25 year old leftist/nihilist, unless they were really in to slow motion gore.

This, by the way, is the follow-up film by Andrew Dominik, the writer/director of The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.


  1. "Then, in case you didn't get the message, Pitt closes the movie with an "I hate America" rant about Thomas Jefferson sleeping with his slaves. (Which, frankly, I doubt.)"

    My kids are tought that as a fact rather than as it actually is, a possibility. But then you are already well-aware of the benefits of home schooling.

  2. I am, indeed.

    The media ran with that notion so hard, they should get a Heisman.


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