DVD Review: Killing Them Softly

Killing Them Softly DVDSTUDIO: Weinstein Company/Anchor Bay | DIRECTOR: Andrew Dominik | CAST: Brad Pitt, Richard Jenkins, Ray Liotta, Scott McNairy, Ben Mendelsohn, James Gandolfini, Sam Shepard
BLU-RAY & DVD RELEASE DATE: 3/26/2013 | PRICE: DVD $29.98, Blu-ray/DVD Combo $39.99
BONUSES: featurette, deleted scenes
SPECS: R | 97 min. | Crime thriller | 2.40:1 widescreen | Dolby Digital 5.1/DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 | English and Spanish subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

Set against the 2008 Presidential campaign where “hope” is a key word for Barack Obama as he’s seen on TV screens throughout the film, the crime thriller Killing Them Softly is an edgy, atmospheric, downbeat film centering on a bunch of hopeless hoods in hopeless situations.

Killing Them Softly

Brad Pitt and Richard Jenkins lean into the bar in Killing Me Softly.

Adapted by Kiwi director Andrew Dominik (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford) from the 1974 Boston-set George V. Higgins novel, the film repositions the action to a desolate New Orleans. It stars Brad Pitt (Moneyball) as Jackie Coogan, a philosophical, chain-smoking mob enforcer with a bad temper who attempts to straighten things out after a couple of desperate lowlifes steal heaps of cash from a mob-sponsored poker tournament run by Markie (Ray Liotta, Something Wild). Also part of this situation are a boozy New York hood (James Gandolfini, Welcome to the Rileys) and a mob-connected attorney (Richard Jenkins, Let Me In).

The accent in Killing Them Softly is more on the characterizations and dialogue than on action, although the film does contains a handful of explosively violent episodes. But the effectiveness gets undercut as Dominik’s insistence on ironic visuals and audio cues becomes annoying after a while. Ditto for his his direction where characters speak first (often about money—or the lack of it) and act later…often too much later.

Killing Them Softly didn’t register much at the box-office with $15 million in the till, but Pitt and company should be applauded for trying something different and more meditative in a genre film, much like they did with their 2007 Jesse James enterprise.


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About Irv

Irv Slifkin has been reviewing movies since before he got kicked off of his high school radio station for panning The Towering Inferno in 1974. He has written the books VideoHound’s Groovy Movies: Far-Out Films of the Psychedelic Era and Filmadelphia: A Celebration of a City’s Movies, and has contributed film reportage and reviews to such outlets as Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Video Business magazine and National Public Radio.