FLICKS.CO.NZ

REVIEW: 'Killing Them Softly'

REVIEW: 'Killing Them Softly'

REVIEW: 'Killing Them Softly', Flicks.co.nz

5 stars

In this darkly comic crime thriller, a couple of drug-addled low-lifes rob a mob-protected poker game and enforcer Jackie Cogan (Brad Pitt) is sent to track them down. In cinemas October 18.

--------------------------------------------------

It may not sound like much on paper, but Andrew (Chopper) Dominik's ugly-beautiful crime drama is an embarrassment of cine-riches. The gangland revenge plot is familiar. The outcome a foregone conclusion. But somehow the resulting film – gritty, tense, funny, moving – is one of the best, and saddest, of the year.

Set in a devastated America, with the white-noise of TV recession chatter swamping the soundtrack, and post-Katrina New Orleans providing a rain-soaked backdrop, the film introduces low-lives Scoot McNairy (Monsters) and Ben Mendelsohn (Animal Kingdom) as they rob Ray Liotta's backroom card game. It's a suicidal plan that brings Brad Pitt's super-efficient fixer, Richard Jenkins world-weary administrator and James Gandolfini's alcoholic hitman down on their heads.

It's a terrific cast, with particular kudos going to McNairy – pinched, whiny, totally out of his depth; Mendelsohn, who's perfected a distressing combination of pathetic and terrifying; and a career-best Gandolfini, who switches from sympathetic to repulsive between martinis. Pitt, meanwhile, plays his super-cool pointman like Tyler Durden grown older and even more disillusioned. “How badly do you want him beaten?” he asks Jenkins disinterestedly. The near-unwatchable scene that follows answers the question with blood, tears and vomit.

Although Dominik punctures the grubbiness with bitter laughs and sequences of heart-in-mouth beauty – bullets sweeping balletically through fracturing glass, Mendelsohn slipping into smacked-out oblivion – he knows these people are inching ever closer to damnation. “This country is fucked. There's a plague coming,” says Pitt. How long, Dominik seems to be asking, before it comes for us too?

The people's comments