Monday, September 22, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Review: ‘Softly’ hammers its message hard

By
From page B2 | November 30, 2012 |

Writer-director Andrew Dominik’s “Killing Them Softly” is an incredibly stylish genre exercise set in the world of mobsters, junkies and lowlifes, but it’s also trying incredibly hard to be About Something.

Not content merely to be profane, abrasive and occasionally, darkly amusing, it also wants to be relevant. And so Dominik has taken the 1974 crime novel “Cogan’s Trade” by George V. Higgins and set it in the days before the 2008 presidential election, just as the U.S. economy is in the midst of catastrophic collapse. Every television and radio is tuned to then-candidate Barack Obama or President George W. Bush addressing the nation — even in bars and thugs’ cars — with the volume cranked way up, commenting all-too obviously on the film’s action.

As if we couldn’t decipher for ourselves that organized crime functions as its own form of capitalism, “Killing Them Softly” turns on the mini-implosion that occurs when a couple of idiots rob a mob-protected card game. Scoot McNairy plays the jittery ex-con Frankie; his inept partner in crime is an Australian heroin addict played by Ben Mendelsohn. Both are aggressively grungy. As they get away with briefcases full of cash, we hear Bush in the background, asking rhetorically, “What does this mean for your financial future?” Could it really be that obvious?

The corporate types at the top of the syndicate, represented by an uptight, humorless (and nameless) Richard Jenkins, want to restore order, so they ask Jackie Cogan, an enforcer played by Brad Pitt (star of Dominik’s haunting, poetic “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford”), to investigate the heist and punish the perpetrators. This is one of those effortless Pitt performances that exemplify how beautifully he manages to be both a serious actor and a superstar; the slicked-back hair, aviator sunglasses and gold chains are a showy shorthand to signify he’s a dangerous guy, but the consistently surprising choices he makes with the rat-a-tat dialogue reveal his character’s intelligence.

Jackie brings in an old colleague, veteran hit man Mickey (James Gandolfini), to take out the robbers and send a message to the rest of the criminal world. The scenes these two actors share are by far the film’s best, including one in which they sit at a bar and quietly catch up on everything from work to marriage to alcoholism; they’re so different in tone from everything else, they feel like they’re part of an entirely separate movie. Gandolfini’s character is the only one who feels like a complete and complicated person: brazen and abusive but also sentimental and deeply insecure.

At the other end of the aesthetic spectrum is the artfully graphic pummeling some of these characters take, particularly Ray Liotta as the guy who runs the card game in question (and once got caught trying to rob it himself). The hard thwack of a fist against a jaw matches the pummel of rain and the splatter of blood. Bullets fire from a handgun in super-slow motion, piercing the raindrops, then a car window, then someone’s skull. It’s all very painstaking and cool-looking (the work of the gifted cinematographer Greig Fraser) but it also feels like part of a prevalent cynicism, given the film’s heavy-handed message.

“America’s not a country, it’s just a business,” Jackie declares in the film’s final monologue, a message “Killing Them Softly” already had hammered pretty hard during the previous hour and a half.

“Killing Them Softly,” a Weinstein Co. release, is rated R for violence, sexual references, pervasive language and some drug use. Running time: 97 minutes. Two stars out of four.

Christy Lemire

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

Vaca Christian hits FM airwaves

By Susan Winlow | From Page: A1, 4 Comments | Gallery

 
Hazmat crew responds to Fairfield after spill Sunday

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A3

 
SBDC schedules free workshop for small businesses

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

Cordelia Rotary to host Senior Center fall dinner

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

 
CHP offers teen drivers class

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

Golf tourney to help uninsured children

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3, 2 Comments

 
Dixon Scottish Games return to Solano

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

 
Local governments schedule meetings

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

 
Master Gardeners schedule annual plant exchange

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

 
Il Fiorello Olive Oil Co. hold butchery class

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

 
American music makes a sweet sound Sunday

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A4

North Bay Pediatrics celebrates anniversary

By Barry Eberling | From Page: B8

 
Sutter Solano has new leader

By Barry Eberling | From Page: B8

Popeye’s seeks Fairfield site

By Barry Eberling | From Page: B8, 6 Comments | Gallery

 
.

US / World

Some California wells run dry amid drought

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1, 1 Comment

 
More drought forecast next year across West

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

32 structures destroyed in California wildfire

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
Crews cleaning fuel spill in San Francisco Bay

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Police say rifle carried by ambush suspect found

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Gov. Brown signs clean-air vehicle legislation

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 4 Comments

Feds censure local police, yet give lethal weapons

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Melted glacier sends miles of mud down Mt. Shasta

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Sierra Leone concludes nationwide Ebola lockdown

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
2016 may loom, but Jeb Bush is focused on business

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

China, US, India push world carbon emissions up

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
New Afghan president, but vote totals kept secret

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Del. authorities: Bus overturns, at least 1 dead

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
NASA’s Maven explorer arrives at Mars after year

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

North Korea powerful temptation for some Americans

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10 | Gallery

 
Craig Ferguson plays it loose with new game show

By The Associated Press | From Page: A11

‘Maze Runner’ races past ‘Tombstones’ with $32.5M

By The Associated Press | From Page: A11

 
.

Opinion

 
Pulse poll: Will the drought end this year?

By Daily Republic | From Page: A8

 
Idealists made mess of 20th century

By Jack Batson | From Page: A8, 5 Comments

Thanks go out to Telstar Instruments

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A8

 
.

Living

Community Calendar: Sept. 22, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

 
Today in History: Sept. 22, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

Ned’s drinking is ruining our parents’ business, health

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: B5

 
Horoscopes: Sept. 22, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: B5

Horoscopes: Sept. 23, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: B7

 
.

Entertainment

TVGrid Sept 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A10

 
TVGrid Sept 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A11

.

Sports

 
Giants swept by Padres; fall 4 ½ behind Dodgers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Stanton leads Cardinals past 49ers 23-14

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Donaldson’s walk-off HR powers A’s past Phillies

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Penalty nixes Raiders rally, Patriots win 16-9

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
NFL roundup: Cowboys erase 21-point deficit, beat Rams 34-31

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Armijo boys run to 2nd-place finish in Irvine

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

 
Hamilton wins in Singapore, takes F1 title lead

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Ex-Titans kicker Bironas killed in car crash

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Seahawks hold off Broncos 26-20 in overtime

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Hur pulls away for LPGA Tour win in Alabama

By The Associated Press | From Page: B9 | Gallery

 
Logano wins at New Hampshire in 2nd Chase race

By The Associated Press | From Page: B10 | Gallery

.

Business

 
Native Americans getting final settlement payments

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

5 ways to protect yourself from data breaches

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8, 1 Comment

 
.

Obituaries

.

Comics

Baldo Sept 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Garfield Sept 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Beetle Bailey Sept 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Peanuts Sept 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Sally Forth Sept 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
For Better or Worse Sept 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Wizard of Id Sept 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Frank and Ernest Sept 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Blondie Sept 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Rose is Rose Sept 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Get Fuzzy Sept 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Pickles Sept 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Baby Blues Sept 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Zits Sept 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Dilbert Sept 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
B.C. Sept 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Bridge Sept 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Word Sleuth Sept 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Cryptoquote Sept 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Sudoku Sept 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Crossword Sept 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Beetle Bailey Sept 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Peanuts Sept 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Zits Sept 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Frank and Ernest Sept 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Pickles Sept 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

For Better or Worse Sept 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Rose is Rose Sept 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Sally Forth Sept 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Garfield Sept 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Get Fuzzy Sept 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Baldo Sept 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

B.C. Sept 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Dilbert Sept 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Wizard of Id Sept 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Baby Blues Sept 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Blondie Sept 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Word Sleuth Sept 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Crossword Sept 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Bridge Sept 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Cryptoquote Sept 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Sudoku Sept 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7