Sunday, December 2, 2012

Killing Them Softy: great crime drama

The conventional wisdom regarding Brad Pitt's new film, Killing them Softly, is that it is an abomination because it had a pathetic box office yield in its first weekend . Such are the fortunes, I guess, when how little a film makes over rides the critical concern of how good a film is. Killing is my favorite film of the year , adding more evidence to the notion that Brad Pitt has handily transcended the curse of being a Ken doll to being a versatile film actor; his portrayal here of Jackie Cogan, a cynical, methodical hit man who is called in by Mob higher ups to investigate a robbery of a Mob protected card game and then extinguish the lives of those responsible as a means of warning other street punks from attempting the same gambit, is subtly detailed and nicely mannered depiction of a character who has a grasp of what he is , a contract killer, and the world he lives in, an America where everything is a brutal business transaction. 

Cogan, a lean presence, is the only one in the Game, this particular crime environment, who hasn't addled his senses with drugs, booze or the destructive reaches of delusional rationalization. In a dark,rainy, cold, urban terrain l of decrepit side streets, ratty warehouse districts and freeway overpasses , we witness a noose composed of criminal short sightedness slowly tightening around the necks of petty hooligans and thugs as their sloppy , double-crossing plans to a quick and easy provide the means of their eventual , violent deaths. "Killing them Softly" has the inevitability of a great Tragedy--American crime fiction at it's best , in the guise of Elmore Leonard, Jim Thompson , James Ellroy and Cornell Woolrich, delivers the same bleakly poetic warnings against untoward Pride as does Euripides, Shakespeare or O'Nell-- and Cogan is the only one who understands the situation and certainly the single personality with the focus and method to do what needs to be accomplished. Indeed, this merciless, pragmatic hit man is the only one who understands the terms of this convoluted gaggle of greed and stupidity. Cogan dispatches the elements that have disturbed the city's criminal equilibrium with a perfected mechanical precision. Problematic punks who are dead cease to be a problem.

 Beyond the alluring crime story itself--a revealing series of conversations where the quirky fuck ups reveal the poetic and vulgar limits of their world view--there are intriguing backdrops that offer themselves up as a critique of the culture at large, particularly the 2008 Obama/McCain race for President where we see, on newscasts observed on televisions in various rat hole brass, the political parties making promises to help the working man while we watch working men, cheap, minor gangsters, struggle , hustle and screw each other for whatever advantage they can get. All this said, Andrew Dimkins, writer and director, has done a superb job with this film, in the overlapping of the three principle story lines that merge at a credible expedient pace, and with the photography, which fashions a dark, noirish feeling in the perennially raining darkness of this film. Superb performances as well by James Gandolfini, Richard Jenkins and Ray Liotta as well. Go see this film.

WHAT I'VE BEEN READING

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Ted's bookshelf: read

The Tortilla CurtainU.S.!: A NovelSlaves to Do These ThingsCrackpots: A NovelThe Incentive of the MaggotFrantic Transmissions to and from Los Angeles: An Accidental Memoir

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