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Grimes & Rowe Watch a Movie: Killing Them Softly

By Storycarnivores @storycarnivores

killing-33Title: Killing Them Softly
Directed by: Andrew Dominik
Distributed by: The Weinstein Company
Release Date: November 30, 2012
Rated: R

Synopsis: Jackie Cogan is an enforcer hired to restore order after three dumb guys rob a Mob protected card game, causing the local criminal economy to collapse. (Via IMDB)

Brian: At least once a year I accidentally see a really bad movie in the theater. I’m lucky that about 99% of the time I walk into a movie, I have a good sense whether it will be good or not. If I go to a movie like Life of Pi, or Skyfall, or the upcoming Zero Dark Thirty and Silver Linings Playbook, I have a pretty good feeling that I’ll have a great time, or, at worst, a merely good one. I’ve been good over the years at avoiding a movie that will fill me with boredom, with sadness, for the urge to run for the aisle and escape. I remember when I saw Alexander in 2004. I just sat there for two and a half hours in the kind of miserable state the movies aren’t supposed to give us. I don’t need to have fun at every movie I see, but I need to be entertained, or at at the very least in admiration of the filmmaking tools used to get the motion picture I’m watching on the screen. I had my doubts on Killing Them Softly. The film got an almost unheard-of F score from CinemaScore, not a good sign. But the reviews have been positive, some extremely so. I enjoyed director Dominik’s previous film, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. I love when Brad Pitt plays bad; anything dark with Pitt is usually a great time (Seven, Fight Club). But here was the main reason I decided I needed to see this film in the theatre: Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly, a critic I usually trust, said Killing Them Softly was like Drive, but better. Drive was my favorite movie of last year, so I figured, Hell, if it’s like Drive, I’ll love it. What am I getting at? Killing Them Softly is the most miserable experience I’ve had in a movie theater in five years.

Shaunta: It took me a little longer to realize that Killing Them Softly wasn’t going tomake my top ten list. About half an hour in, I got this overwhelming wave of boredom and thought, “oh, wow, we’re going to be here forever!.” I almost leaned over and told Brian that we should try to sneak into Anna Karenina, but I honestly expected him to like the movie. He’s way more into things like over-stylized, slow-motion violence than I am. I’m a delicate little flower, I swear. There was a scene where some guy was being beat up, and covering my face almost wasn’t enough. Even the sounds of it was just too much. Scenes like that were interspersed with talking-head, boring conversations between the characters. I actually think the premise is a good one. The idea of hired guns being impacted by the financial crisis of 2008? Interesting. I know it didn’t work for Brian, but the political stuff playing in the background was my favorite part of the movie. I mean, as far as I had a favorite part.

Brian: Nothing works in Killing Them Softly. Nothing. It says something when you’re worried about a movie after five seconds have passed. Yes, five seconds. Killing Them Softly, for me, commits the cardinal rule of movie watching: It’s boring. Really boring. Like really, really, really boring. How can a movie with Brad Pitt as a contract killer be anything but mesmerizing? Director Dominik manages the unthinkable, and gives Pitt almost nothing to do. I don’t mind talking in a movie, as long as it’s interesting and holds my attention. There are scenes in this movie that must go on for fifteen minutes of two people rambling on, for no discernible purpose. James Gandolfini shows up for a couple scenes of talk, talk, talk, talk, and then disappears. It’s the scene in a hotel room where Gandolfini talks nasty to a stripper, with Pitt looking on in disinterest, where I gave up on the movie, and started daydreaming, and thinking about dinner, and wondering what other movie — any movie — I could be watching instead. There are parallels to Drive — the stylistic violence — but it’s so over-the-top in its style that it’s distracting when compared to the flatly lit, unimaginatively shot scenes of dialog. Drive works because beneath the style, which is rampant throughout and not just in the violent scenes, is an interesting story, and characters we come to care about. We don’t care about the characters in Killing Them Softly, so we have nothing to keep us engaged. And finally, there’s a political subtext that the director beats over our heads until our skulls are crushed. This idea may have worked in the hands of a more subtle director, but when Obama or Bush are talking on the television in practically every other scene, it distracts  from the central narrative. The film isn’t a complete void from beginning to end. A robbery scene early on is effective, and a car shooting halfway through would have made a superb addition to another, better movie. But I’m sorry. This movie isn’t just bad. This movie sucks!

Shaunta: Well, like I said, the political stuff is the only thing that worked for me. It was the narrative. Without it, this movie would have had literally nothing. It was the only unique thing it had going for it. The car shooting scene that Brian liked was, again, too much for me. It was visually cool, but — not my thing. The robbery scene was really well done. There is a character that is an Australian junkie, and I thought he was really good. I mean, completely disgusting, sweaty and greasy and spot on. Brad Pitt was a mess. Booooring. Brian is right, he had nothing to do at all. It’s like they hired him, and then told him to just stand around, shoot people, and look pretty. This is one of those movies with almost no women in it. The only one that made an impression on me was a prostitute. I wonder if that was part of the problem. I’ve noticed that films that lack women (or men for that matter) tend to kind of suck. On top of that, the movie relies on violence to add interest. Not good. If you really, really want to see this one, I recommend waiting until it shows up on HBO or something. Don’t waste your money on a theater.

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