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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Film technically OK, won’t Kill or even thrill audiences

Jackie+Cogan+%28Brad+Pitt%29+confirms+a+kill+toward+the+end+of+Killing+Them+Softly.+This+scene+is+one+of+only+three+times+Cogan+actually+kills+someone.%0D%0APhoto+courtesy+Plan+B+Entertainment
Jackie Cogan (Brad Pitt) confirms a kill toward the end of Killing Them Softly. This scene is one of only three times Cogan actually kills someone. Photo courtesy Plan B Entertainment

By Joshua Knopp/special assignments editor

Jackie Cogan (Brad Pitt) confirms a kill toward the end of Killing Them Softly. This scene is one of only three times Cogan actually kills someone.
Photo courtesy Plan B Entertainment

Killing Them Softly is a very good movie that not a lot of people will enjoy.

Based on the 1974 novel Cogan’s Trade, the film acts out a robbery and its aftermath. Frankie (Scoot McNairy) and Russell (Ben Mendelsohn) rob a high-stakes poker game run by local mob bosses. They can afford this because they know the heat will come down on the game’s host, Markie Trattman (Ray Liotta), who had previously set up a robbery of his own game. After the heist, Jackie Cogan (Brad Pitt) is brought in to kill everyone involved.

The film stretches itself to overlay the 2008 economic crisis and presidential campaign on the plot. For the most part, it does a pretty good job. Speeches from George Bush or Barack Obama on characters’ radios and television sets illustrate the story’s commonality with the crisis.

Once the poker games stop (once the housing market crashes and takes others with it), the mob bosses (bankers) stop making money and the economy stops flowing. To get it moving again, higher mob bosses (the federal government) have to spend exorbitant amounts on hitmen (a stimulus package). Obama’s speeches about hope and unity are there only to be rejected by Cogan, who shows other characters paranoia and apathy throughout the film.

Through clever interweaving of fact and fiction, Killing Them Softly is accurate to both of its sources. Cogan’s Trade is defined by willfully lacking a hero, and most Americans don’t think highly of anyone involved in the recession. The characters are even reflective of what they represent. The government-metaphor mob bosses, represented by an unnamed driver (Richard Jenkins), take a long time green-lighting hits because they can’t make decisions.

The film is skillfully crafted, but that doesn’t mean it’s pleasant to watch. Reflecting mafia stereotypes and the book, characters make themselves bad the easy way — misogyny. An obvious shortcut, it crosses a few lines. The characters, Russell and Mickey (James Gandolfini) in particular, exist primarily to disgust the audience.

What’s more, Killing them Softly is painfully slow and feels about an hour longer than its 94-minute runtime. Lowlights include slow-motion point-of-view shots of Russell on heroin and Mickey’s 15-minute spiel on one prostitute in Florida he really likes after telling the one he was just with to “stop treating her anus like the Sistine Chapel.”

It’s a simple story, and the filmmakers should feel free to take their time, but all the important scenes could have fit in a short film and not felt crammed.

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