“Killing Them Softy”: Amoral exhaustion

A second portrait of down-and-out America, Andrew Dominik’s ‘Killing Them Softly’ is a frostbite satire about men and decision-making in darker times. He burns the gloss and glamour off of Scorsese-inflected gangster myths with an economic allegory of the 2008 financial crisis and its political gamesmanship. We follow two street hoods (Scoot McNairy and Ben Mendelsohn) after they ‘turn over’ an organised card game and their pursuit by Jackie Cogan (Brad Pitt), a hitman sent to exact justice and restore “confidence”.

The recurring grey-black-brown colour scheme and vintage 70s style (check: cars, clothing, lingo) connect the present United States with a past moment in their history equally maligned with economic and political duress. The slow-motion shots only heighten this spatial overlap. But though it is refreshingly free from the Warner Bros. romanticism that plagues crime thrillers (favouring to portray the banal monotony, rampant misogyny, and alcoholism of the underworld business instead), ‘Killing Them Softly’ and its substantial subtext still lacks the discernible edge to make the skin crawl or even invoke a stronger reaction one way or the other.

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