Based on the 1973 novel ‘Cogan’s Trade’ by George V. Higgins, the film revolves around the repercussions of a mysterious poker game heist.
The film is part noir, part caper and mostly cryptic. The first 30 minutes of the film unfold in a bizarre manner, making it very difficult for the viewer to decipher the main plot.
The main plot revolves around a robbery that occurs in the middle of a poker game where two small-time thugs, Frankie (Scoot McNairy) and Ben Mendelsohn (Russell), loot Markie Trattman (Ray Liotta). Jackie Cogan (Brad Pitt), a folk music-loving mob enforcer is called into find and execute the suspected culprits. Violence, blood and gore ensue. The film is mainly about how difficult it is, even for the criminals to survive, during the economic meltdown of 07/08. The film attempts to be a very thoughtful take on the political affairs in the US. There’s a dialogue in the end that goes something like, “America is not a country, but a business!”
The film is filled with repeated inter-cuts, witty and expletive-filled dialogue reminiscent of Quentin Tarantino films and also embeds within it a powerful political message. There are scenes interspersed with speeches from the 2008 Barack Obama-McCain Presidential Campaign. However, it’s all too confusing. In the end, you’ll just go ‘Phew!’ The screenplay, although stylishly embellished with some wonderful cinematography filled with exquisite slow-motion shots, has too little substance. Even the clever political connection seems an attempt to intellectualize the content of the film. Brad Pitt delivers a fine performance as does the rest of the cast. However, the writing falters. Andrew Dominik, who has directed and written the adapted screenplay, fails to incorporate the basic premise of the film.
A lot of ‘killing’ goes on in ‘Killing Them Softly’. Menacing it is, intriguing it isn’t. Understandable, it certainly is not! Pitt fans might like it. Fans of the caper-genre may find it a one-time-watch. For the rest, avoid.