I like Killing Them Softly, but… It is a film where the the whole is less the the sum of its parts. That is to say there are great scenes, but they don’t add up to a great movie. Good movie? Yes.
The plot involves two guys who rob a poker game and try to frame it on the loudmouth idiot running it. As is the standard with a lot of heist films the criminals are not all that bright. Thankfully they didn’t step over the line and become utterly inept; this isn’t that kind of comedy.
I guess you could call Killing Them Softly a comedy; there are a lot of funny scenes. One of them, and I won’t say which one, is maybe the funniest thing I have seen in a very long time. It may be too funny, since it doesn’t really fit with the subtle humor that permeates the rest of the film.
Brad Pitt is the poster boy but he doesn’t show up until around the twenty-five minute mark. He plays Jackie, the hit man who is hired to deal with the thieves.
There is a whole subplot involving the US economy and the 2008 Presidential election. President Bush is constantly heard on radio and television discussing the economy. This ties into the plot due to the fact that the unseen crime boss needs the poker games up and running again to help with his own economy. If you don’t get this part of the story, it’s okay. You really aren’t missing anything.
In some ways Killing Them Softly reminds me of Glengarry Glen Ross–pay no attention to the plot, just watch it for excellent actors delivering brilliant dialogue.
James Gandofini plays Mickey, another hit man, who is brought in to make the hit on someone that knows Jackie, and therefore would see him coming. Mickey, to say the least, is a mess. He drinks much too much, and is more than a little bit rude. Mickey, really isn’t central to the story, but watching Gandofini act is always a pleasure.
Richard Jenkins plays the accountant who acts as the go-between for the boss and Jackie. It’s the sort of role he is known for; a put upon fellow who is just trying to get the job done, all the while dealing with the oddballs. It was good to see him play it with a bit more humor this time.
As I said, it is a good but not great film. If you are a fan of anyone in the cast, or of crime films, give it a shot.