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Killing Them Softly

I trust Brad Pitt as an actor not to lure me into any really crappy films. While some of his work is better than others (naturally), I feel he does consistent enough work that I can bank on him he might not have the track records of a Damon or a Clooney, but hes in a similar league from a dependability standpoint. Pitt plays Jackie, a hitman who prefers to keep a distance from his targets. Jackie is called in by a front man (Richard Jenkins) for the mob? Its never really said who is concerned because Markies (Ray Liotta) high stakes card game was knocked over. Problem is, this is the second time its happened, and the first time Markie orchestrated the hit himself. He doesnt this time (we are shown the real story), but everyone figures Markie did it, so he has to be taken out. Jackie also has to track down who conducted the actual robbery and deal with them too. The problem here is that it takes far longer than it should to get to that plot. We start out with the robbers and spend a lot of screen time establishing the thieves patois, then we follow them to the hit, and we seem to sort of run in circles for a bit before Pitt establishes himself and people start to die. And even then, theres a lot of unnecessary dialogue scenes, as if some scriptwriter just fell in love with his word processor or wanted to prove he was the next Tarantino or both. Theres also a wholly unnecessary, completely time-wasting subplot with James Gandolfini as a New York assassin named Mickey called in to do one of the hits as the mark will recognize Jackie, but all Mickey wants to do is drink, whore, and bitch about his life, so all Gandolfini does is pad out the films run time (its only 97 minutes to begin with), and by his second or third appearance I was considering reaching for the remote to fast forward when I thought the guy just died, just watch his scenes, but there was no payoff at all, and even worse, Gandolfini seemed to be trying for some sort of SNL-inspired imitation of Robert DeNiro. With a film this shakily constructed, you dont need an actor wandering off into potential spoof. Theres also a troubling sense of timelessness; we seem to be in the present day (Jackie sports a relatively recent-looking cell phone), but all the cars and haircuts are from the 70s, and the mish-mash of accents makes it impossible to pin down place, either, either than somewhere in America where it gets cold. Most of the recent spate of really good crime movies (Gone Baby Gone, The Town, etc.) draw from their environs, and I think making the setting here so generic doesnt help. All that aside, Pitt gives a fairly good performance as a laid-back but nonetheless brutal hitman; the menacing here is very subtle, and we know before the marks do that they arent going to make it out of the scene alive. Everyone else other than Gandolfini is satisfactory, though Liotta is capable of better than this. Gandolfini, like I said, is way, way off. For those who simply love crime dramas (or Brad Pitt), this is marginally worth watching. If neither one of those two factors are your strong suit, you could give

this one a pass and not miss much. Weve seen this type of thing done a fair amount recently, and usually better. October 20, 2013