KILLING THEM SOFTLY (SPOILER ALERT!)

This is one of the most confounding/odd movies I have seen in a long time. Someone asked me if Brad Pitt plays a good guy. There are no good guys. They’re all bad guys (kinda like Casino or Goodfellas). These are gangsters and they are levels of bad in their own universe. The story surrounds the heist of an illegal poker game run by Ray Liotta for some unnamed Mob organization. His character had ripped off his own game before, so some genius thinks he and a couple of guys can do it again and Ray’s character will get blamed and they’ll get away. That’s pretty much the way it happens, but Brad Pitt plays a hit man who has it all figured out and has to clean it up. But there is something more here. The whole movie plays out during the 2008 financial crisis and ends on election day 2008. Throughout the movie, we hear clips of speeches from candidate Barack Obama and President George W. Bush talking about the fiscal crisis and what they have to do to fix it. It’s the music in the background. It makes you think the plot is a metaphor for what was going on in the country. Thieves trying to rip off criminals. No good guys, only less bad guys. There are some notable performances. Pitt is pretty good as the “fixer”. James Gandolfini plays a washed up hit man the “Mob” calls in to whack a guy. But he is such a mess that he can’t do it and Pitt has to pick up his pieces. There is one particularly bloody slo-mo murder scene which seems a bit over the top. But the movie wraps up with one of the greatest final lines of a movie I’ve ever heard.. SPOILER ALERT.. Pitt is getting paid by his handler (the wonderful Richard Jenkins) and he feels he’s being grossly underpaid. All this goes on while Obama gives his victory speech, with Pitt dismissing it as a load of crap. Here’s the line delivered by Pitt. “America’s not a country it’s a business.. now f#@%ing pay me!” Awesome! — Alan Yudman

Not as bad as the Cinemascore F it earned from audiences, but not as good as its Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, Brad Pitt’s existential gangster drama tries doing for an American film what the French perfected back in Godard’s glory days. This is not an impossible task. KILLING was taken from a novel by George V. Higgins, the adaptation of whose THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE also dealt with world-weariness among the criminal class and led to what just might have been Robert Mitchum’s greatest performance. But Brad Pitt is no Robert Mitchum, whose physical beauty was only enhanced by age and who brought much of his offscreen I-don’t-give-a-damn attitude to his roles. Pitt doesn’t embarrass himself, but he doesn’t have the heft, even at 48, to philosophize persuasively. And there’s a LOT of philosophizing. The talkiness is especially drawn-out in Pitt’s scenes with James Gandolfini (going over old Tony Soprano ground) that go on far after they’ve made their point. The violence is rote, even cliched. (Another slow-motion killing done to an ironic pop tune? Please.) The shadow of Tarantino hovers over the movie, as it did over the far superior SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS, proving that a powerful director’s style can spawn worthy successors — or just hackwork. A nod to Richard Jenkins and Ray Liotta, who always improve whatever they work on. And top marks to flavor-of-the-moment Scoot McNairy, who has at least five movies coming up next year and is well on his way to a healthy career. — Jeff Schultz

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