Imagine a group of Hollywood fat-cats playing high-stakes poker, drinking whiskey that’s older than they are, and bitching about how this country sucks. Suddenly, one of them has a revelation about the real world outside their tiny microcosm…
“Damn, you’re right,” spouts another, the $50 Cuban cigar dropping from their mouth. “It’s all dog eat dog!”
“We gotta tell someone! Get Brad Pitt on the phone!”
I suspect that’s how movies like Killing Them Softly get started. And X-million dollars later, people in the real world can watch it and say, “No shit. Who signed off on this?”
Can’t remember now how I got roped into watching a movie that I didn’t know existed ten minutes earlier. It seems that the high-profile names of Brad Pitt, ex-goodfella Ray Liotta and ex-Soprano James Gandolfini were expected to be a sufficient marketing strategy. It wasn’t.
This was my first exposure to a film where there were more production company credits than movie previews. There are at least six production companies and about twice as many “producers” involved, Brad Pitt among them. Don’t get me wrong, I think Brad Pitt is an awesome actor, and while he doesn’t disappoint in this film, his presence isn’t enough to carry the movie. The plot is supposed to do that, but the plot in Killing Them Softly is weak. Other reviewers have called it “subtle” but the plot is actually thin. I mean thin, as in, a veneer for a political message: The “United” States is a myth. President Obama is lying to you when he tells you we are all one people. It’s every one for themselves.
Like I said, welcome to the real world, eh? But this is the movie’s message, repeated several different times. Killing Them Softly is a petition, and the list of producers are the ones who signed it.
After watching it, I’m not entirely sure what kind of movie Killing Them Softly is. There was too much Quentin-Tarrantinoish-off-topic talk for this to be an action film. All the plans made were shared with the audience and things generally went as planned, so it wasn’t a wacky, heist/caper. It’s no mystery because the audience knows exactly what’s going on the entire time. The only real mystery was why James Gandolfini appears in the film as a drunken, washed up hitman named Mickey, with a big debt and a heart of gold. His acting is superb, but his character had nothing to do with the entire film, except the fact that he was in it for about half an hour. Then he disappears, never to be seen again.
Maybe the Hollywood fat-cats have a lovely explanation for Killing Them Softly. Maybe James Gandolfini is our repressed ID, Obama is our superego, and Brad Pitt represents the zeitgeist of a generation.
Or maybe I’m trying too hard.
The Occam’s Razor theorem says that the correct conclusion is usually the simplest. In that case, the movie was made by people with more political agenda and money than plot. If nothing else, it’s nice to know that we still have freedom of speech, and that anyone with an opinion (a couple million in cash) can make a movie.