Due to a minor eyesight issue (better known as J looked at the wrong theater listings--oops) J and I ended up in Killing Them Softly instead of Lincoln on Saturday. I didn't think anything of it since I wanted to see both. Killing Them Softly has a respectable 76% overall rating on RottenTomatoes . . . certainly not my definite barometer but an ok judge of whether a movie might be decent.
Killing Them Softly was in no way decent. I'll try to avoid plot spoilers but, seriously, that will be difficult because there isn't much of a plot. So, problem number 1: thinner than melted ice plot.
I'm a postmodernist. I can deal with no plot if you give me characters. Problem number 2: undeveloped characters that do nothing. The film tried to make Brad Pitt's Jackie into a sort of warped embodiment of "If You Don't Know Me By Now" and he's so cool he doesn't show up until about 20 minutes in to the film. Once on screen he tries valiantly to be the guy about which he can say "Very few guys know me." But that's a giant problem when everyone in the film, except the guy he delivers the line to and one other guy, knows him (and, well, they know him once he shows up). We're working with a tiny cast of characters ultimately and when one of two existing plot points is that Pitt can't hit a guy because that guy knows him, um, well, it seems Pitt is not the unknown hit man.
Beyond Pitt, there is something vaguely resembling an ensemble cast. James Gandolfini shows up in a foregone conclusion of a washed-up role. Ray Liotta is, well, Ray Liotta. And Richard Jenkins is an unnamed guy who reports to an unnamed committee and pretends to restrict Pitt's actions (this is not at all Orwellian as I'm sure it was intended). But these guys aren't used to their full potential. And, none of the characters evolve or come to any understanding or DO anything. More happens in an episode of Law & Order.
So, no plot, no character development . . . That's my main problem with the film. I unapologetically love gangster movies. Even bad ones. But this is NOT a gangster movie, not even a cerebral one. Problem number 3: poorly advertised faux gangster movie.
So, what's left when your gangster movie has no plot, no characters, and no gangster movie to it? Political commentary, of course. Sigh. The film is incredibly heavy-handed and absurdly lazy with audio and video clips of mainly Obama and McCain during the 2008 election talking about economic matters. Do you really think two bottom-tier hit men drive around listening to NPR? I don't. But, let's suspend our intense disbelief and assume they do just for a second. Now we have two bottom-tier hit men driving around listening to economic commentary in the film--the MASSIVE problem is that the film just ignores that for oh, 99% of the run-time. No one comments on anything except a comment here and there about the recession or times are tough. The comments do not justify the obnoxious voice-overs throughout the film.
Now, SPOILER ALERT: the film attempts to "wrap it all up" and justify the whole damned thing (political "commentary" included) by having the last thing we see be an interaction between Pitt and Jenkins wherein Pitt is paid less than he expected. Miraculously coincidentally, Obama is on TV giving a speech (IN A BAR--right, 'cause there was no game on clearly) about community and whatnot. Pitt suddenly bursts out in a poorly conceived, poorly spoken, cockamamie speech about how we're not all equal and Thomas Jefferson had slaves and blah blah blah nonsense. And Pitt delivers information about a character not seen in the film that makes not one ounce of sense, is a complete tangent and unneeded, AND is annoying because it would be interesting if it were explained, used, or developed in ANY way.
REALLY? Really, Andrew Dominik? First, you want to occupy shaky ground with a bad movie and THEN you want to add bullshit "commentary" on top of it? Seriously? *eye roll* That does explain the higher than deserved Rotten Tomatoes rating a la Crash.
Perhaps what pisses me off the most about this film is that hitmen who are impacted by the economy is an interesting idea. That a recession lowers prices for hits is something most of us don't think about on a regular basis. But, if one wants to make a movie about said topic, one might have to actually USE the information about the economy and well, write a plot, characters, etc. to actually compose a film. As it stands Killing Them Softly is on par with the worst of the freshman essays I've ever had the annoyance to grade--no argument, no soul, no effort.