Killer of a crime thriller

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - MOVIES - LEIGH PAATSCH

THE ti­tle, like the movie it­self, is bru­tally ironic.

Killing Them Softly is out to slay its au­di­ence with a sus­tained at­tack of heavy hit­ting.

Drop your de­fences at any time, and it could be lights- out for you. This dark, men­ac­ing and black- hearted crime drama is not here to win friends. It is here to leave bruises. And worse.

How­ever, Killing Them Softly is in no way a dumb, de­ranged thump- fest.

The fe­roc­ity and mal­ice of its vi­o­lence – shock­ing as it can be – frames part of a big­ger pic­ture with some­thing to say about mod­ern Amer­i­can life.

Loosely based on the Ge­orge Higgins novel Co­gan’s Trade, Killing Them Softly takes place in New Orleans ahead of the 2008 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

In the back­ground, there is al­most al­ways a TV or ra­dio on, with Obama and Bush ram­bling about their plans to solve Amer­ica’s prob­lems.

The char­ac­ters in Killing Them Softly never stop to lis­ten. They know there’s no quick fix for the bro­ken na­tion.

There’s no such thing as mak­ing a dif­fer­ence. Only mak­ing a buck.

Brad Pitt por­trays the epit­ome of this phi­los­o­phy, a vet­eran hit­man named Jackie Co­gan.

He spe­cialises in clean­ing up the mess left by the dirty work of oth­ers. If Jackie can’t do the job him­self, he’ll soon out­source it. He’s ef­fi­cient like that. The film takes a slow, and by no means scenic, route through Jackie’s lat­est as­sign­ment. Two drug­gie small- time crooks ( played by Scoot McNairy and an eerily out- of- it Ben Mendelsohn) have robbed a big- time card game run by Markie ( Ray Liotta).

Those who lost their dough on the night in ques­tion want it back, and they want it yes­ter­day.

They want the re­venge ledger squared. And if Markie has any­thing to do with it, they want him iced as well.

Jackie me­thod­i­cally as­sesses the pros and cons of the case, then brings in a spe­cial­ist ‘‘ fin­isher’’ ( James Gan­dolfini) to achieve the right re­sult.

As di­rected by Aus­tralian An­drew Do­minik ( a proven mas­ter of the crime genre with his still- stun­ning 2000 de­but work Chop­per), Killing Them Softly is at once a dis­arm­ing and dis­il­lu­sion­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

While the ag­gres­sion on screen un­doubt­edly gets in your face at the time of view­ing, there is also a cyn­i­cal hon­esty that plays on your mind for some time after­wards.

Now show­ing State Cinema

CYN­I­CAL HON­ESTY: Ben Mendelsohn and Scoot McNairy play small- time crooks; and ( above) Brad Pitt and James Gan­dolfini are hit­men in the heavy- hit­ting film.

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