Cannes 2012: Killing Them Softly – Gritty & Brutal, But Ultimately Misses The Mark

Peter Willis writes for Bleeding Cool.

Killing Them Softly, from Jesse James helmer Andrew Dominik, made its debut this morning on the Croisette to a full-house at the 8.30am screening. It’s conclusion was greeted by an almost silent crowd, though that usually means you’ll be seeing five-stars blazed across all the major outlets.

We are in America – a business, not a country, we are later told. Spotting an opportunity, three wannabe mobsters carry-out a raid on a local poker game, which had previously hit by its organiser Markie and wise guy (Ray Liotta). Needing a fall-guy to reinstate confidence and get money flowing again, Markie is condemmed.

Brad Pitt plays the willing assassin, Cogan, who prefers to do his killing at a distance in order to avoid getting caught up in the emotion of the moment. Uncomforted by the thought of carrying out one particular hit, he calls in old friend and veteran Mickey, played by James Gandolfini (or Tony Soprano, as he is likely better known).

Unfortunately for Cogan, Mickey has found a new passion in the form of booze and hookers, leaving him in no state to carry out the crimes he has been hired for.

There is a heavy political, not so subtle, undertone running through the movie. Set during the most recent Presedential campaign, which ultimately saw Barack Obama emerge victorious, the focus is very much on the financial strain on all Americans. The world of crime is shown to be no different, with the cost of a hit a constant running joke.

The political element was generally overriding and a unwelcome distraction, perhaps in part as I was unable to directly relate to it due to being a Brit.

In the scenes which they share, however, Pitt and Gandolfini offer up some of my highlights of Cannes thus far. The dry-delivery of Gandolfini is a perfect match for Pitt’s witty charm, with hilarious results.

From the stop-start, politically driven, opening sequence to the musicless closing credits, this movie often seemed like it was trying hard to make a statement but often left me feeling it was a case of style over substance. There was seemingly no end to Dominik’s desire for a aesthetically pleasing final product. The unneccessary camera-attached-to-car-door, the slow-motion glass shattering death sequence, close ups of a recoiling gun, the hazey vision of a drug addict. Killing Them Softly had it all.

The plot is wafer thin, but the switch from comedy to brutal violence was, sadistically, refreshing and offered a saviour to a movie which ultimately missed the mark.

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