Review by Luke Whitmire

The plot goes like this: Two lowlife, crack-addict, brain-dead criminals (Scoot McNairy & Ben Mendelsohn) are recruited to knock off Markie Trattman’s (Ray Liotta) high-stakes underground casino. A porcine thug who has knocked off one of his own games in the past and got away with it, Markie knows he is dancing with death, and the mob brings crime enforcer Jackie Cogan (Brad Pitt) to town to re-establish order in the mob underworld. 

Killing Them Softly takes place on the eve of the 2008 presidential election, and it accentuates the financial collapse the U.S. was suffering from at the time. In a way, the mob in the film is used as a metaphor to point out the socioeconomic and political atmosphere for the strident, criminal direction to which our country is headed. Aussie Writer-Director Andrew Dominik, establishes the mob factions as microcosms of the government: making lots of money and then dealing with the financial nightmare by throwing more money at it. As Wall Street implodes, so does the criminal factions. 
Brad Pitt gives another wonderful performance as Jackie Cogan, a cold and calculating Angel of Death that has his own idea of American culture; Jackie is not only a skilled killer, but a political scholar with sentiments. Jackie posits in one key scene:
America is not a country. It’s just a business.”
He expounds further to a wonderful Richard Jenkins, who portrays a mob lawyer who likes to remain in the shadows. The two meet in a bar to discuss business. An Obama speech about peace and reclaiming the American dream is heard in the background. Meanwhile, Jackie scoffs to the lawyer about Thomas Jefferson’s vision about the American Collective. “This guy wants me to believe we are living in a community. Don’t make me laugh. I live in America, and in America you’re on your own.” A very cynical, nihilistic philosophy on American capitalism, that pervades the mind of the protagonist and the other seamy characters in this society.

It’s a time of trepidation and doubt, gangsters drive around in out-dated vehicles and lack the resources necessary to operate. They are burdened by the constrictions as much as the bankers of Wall Street who fractured the economy.

This truly is a cynical and subpar gangster flick- with an art-house pretentious style. Bullets fly in slo-mo, cutting through skin and bone in comic style; an all-male milieu full of soulless criminals without a modicum of morality or good conscience; a film about empty vessels that pull triggers, smash faces in and betray close friends-just to re-establish a thriving business.

However, this is a mob movie with intelligence and substance, but it’s also languorous to the point of rambling on and on. The chatter outnumbers the flashy, stylized action scenes. The scenes of gab really hurt the momentum, but I have to admit, the dialogue is sharp and so are the performances.
There are elements of Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino that really resonate, but writer-director Dominik displays his own style and method. He devises wonderful shot compositions, atmosphere and attitude, giving each scene a neo-noir look and feel. Everything in frame has an argentine sheen, making everything look corrupt and off balance.
In one scene with a nice touch, we hear Johnny Cash’s apocalyptic The Man Comes Around playing, but it’s not Jesus, it’s Jackie Cogan dressed in black.
Bottom Line: 
Killing them Softly is a less satisfying gangster film than either The Godfather or Goodfellas. But it does have some real profound moments. Andrew Dominik does craft a taut crime drama with some nice political punches.
* * *
3 out of 5 stars
Rated R for strong Violence and Language.