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Killing Them Softly - Blu-ray Review

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Killing Them Softly - Movie Review

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3 Stars

Andrew Dominick has a history with making movies like this. Back in 2007 he penned the screenplay The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, a movie as long as it's title, that on paper was epic but ultimately failed to be. It was bloated in some aspects, gorgeously filmed, but still an unnecessarily long western that did not equal the sum of its parts. Teaming once again with Brad Pitt this year for Killing Them Softly, Dominick returns with a similar result.

Killing Them Softly, like Jesse James, has all of the same elements to make a grand film, but unfortunately in some areas Softly falls short. Advertised as a gangster film to the public, at the core these values are true, but for a majority the film Dominick labors through unnecessary dialogue that's neither witty nor engaging. The largest complaint comes from the overall impact of James Gandolfini's character Mickey, who plods through 20 minutes of incoherence and irrelevancy. It's moments like this that make Killing Them Softly not so much a reward but a chore.

Brad Pitt stars as Jackie, a gun for hire sent in to remove 3 morons who knocked off a card game. The 3 morons include the brains of the organization Squirrel - a self employed dry cleaner, Frankie - a down on his luck punk who's scared of practically everything, and an Australian who ends up mucking up the whole thing. Richard Jenkins plays Council, the man in charge of getting this taken care of.

Putting in one of his more memorable roles recently is Ray Liotta as Trattman, a foolish gangster wannabe who hosts the card game, and has a history of knocking off his own deals then admitting to it later. Liotta's a very innocent character still, which is rare for him. For years we've seen him as the foul mouthed lug we've all grown to appreciate but here, there's no attitude just straight up sincerity. His presence on screen is a joy for Softly.

Killing Them Softly presents a common theme in these independent films where art becomes way more important than the story. Dominick films Softly extremely well. It's beautiful in some many aspects that it's hard to believe one would let their vision sabotage the film. Right from the beginning the sound is distorted back and forth in a very unsettling way. It makes you uncomfortable, like experimental trance music does or the ever growing popular "Noise." With 2008 as the backdrop, Softly plods along slowly. Everyone's paying attention to the election, on the radio, on TVs, everywhere. The equality notion is passed and ignored. Why it's there? We don't know. Dominick's writing is too loose and vague to really understand the message, so much of the film is spent in limbo. The overall scope of the film is rather small but it feels longer than it actually is. Mickey's scenes don't chew at all, they are laborious, unnecessary, and ultimately fleeting given the character's outcome. Whereas Quentin Tarantino can plug away at meaningless dialogue in some films, his feels more natural, not so forced which is how Softly feels.

On the flip side, there's a lot of good to come from Softly. Another stellar performance from Brad Pitt. He's cold, soft spoken, and completely unapologetic. As he coaches Mickey on marital problems and drinking, you at first think perhaps he's just trying to be helpful, but deep down you know he's honestly just being selfish and covering his ass. At the apex of Killing Them Softly is undoubtedly the most wonderfully shot death scene of the year. Unfortunately for fans of Liotta, his character does pass over into that dark abyss. But in a manner that is nothing short of incredible. The actual act is rather dull, but in keeping with the title, the death is slow moving so you can appreciate all of the little details that make death so captivating. If anything, Softly should be required viewing strictly for this scene as it's the heart of the film.

Killing Them Softly continues Dominick's mixed bag timeline. On the one hand it's beautifully shot, well acted, and the violence when present is realistic and brutal. On the other hand, it's message is confusing and missed often, and there's aspects of the film that simply have no direction story wise, and if they are present get sabotaged by the filmmakers desire to make an art-house gangster film. It's a slow burning film, one that has rewards, but also restraints and confines. Just like his last film, Dominick's Softly is only for a small audience who can appreciate film, without a lot going on - but even in that respect it can be quite a trial.

{2jtab: Film Details}

Killing Them Softly - Movie ReviewMPAA Rating: R for violence, sexual references, pervasive language, and some drug use.
Runtime:
97 mins.
Director
: Andrew Dominik
Writer
: Andrew Dominik
Cast:
Brad Pitt; James Gandolfini; Ben Mendelsohn; Scoot McNeary; Richard Jenkins
Genre
: Drama | Crime
Tagline:
Killing Them Softly
Memorable Movie Quote: "America is not a country it's a business. Now, F@#$% pay me!"
Distributor:
The Weinstein Company
Official Site:
killingthemsoftlymovie.com
Release Date: November 31, 2012
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
March 26, 2013.

Synopsis: Three dumb guys who think they're smart rob a Mob protected card game, causing the local criminal economy to collapse. Brad Pitt plays the enforcer hired to track them down and restore order. Killing Them Softly also features Richard Jenkins , James Gandolfini, Ray Liotta, Scoot McNairy, Ben Mendelsohn, and Vincent Curatola. Max Casella, Trevor Long, Slaine and Sam Shepard also make appearances.

{2jtab: Blu-ray Review}

Killing Them Softly - Blu-ray Review

Component Grades
Movie

Blu-ray Disc
3 Stars

4 stars



Blu-ray Experience
3.5 stars

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - March 26, 2013
Screen Formats: 2.40:1
Subtitles
: English SDH, Spanish
Audio:
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Discs: 25GB Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set (1 BD, 1 DVD); UV digital copy; iTunes digital copy; DVD copy
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

With all the grit and grain of the original theatrical print, Anchor Bay’s 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 transfer nails the look and the mood of the picture with precision.  Steeped in rain-soaked streets, the colors - natural greens, blues, browns, and grays – and black levels remain strong and distinguishable throughout.  Detail and image depth are excellent.  There are also a number of slow-motion effects in the film that look sharp as a nail on the transfer.  All in all, this film – as explosive as it is quiet – looks quite beautiful on Blu-ray.  The English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is the only one provided and it is quite effective with crisp dialogue and thematically important political speeches being audible as well.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • None

Special Features:

The Blu-ray + DVD combo set also includes an Ultraviolet copy for you to watch via your computer, tablet or smartphone. Although the cover art doesn't feature the stellar artwork made to promote the film, the menu has a nicely realized menu screen. This might be Andrew Dominik's third feature film but he gets no commentary track.  The only supplemental items included in this release are a brief making of featurette (where Dominik discusses the film’s themes) and four deleted/extended scenes that fill out the narrative only a bit more.

  • Making of Killing Them Softly (5 min)
  • Deleted Scenes (9 min)

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