Killing Them Softly Blu-ray Review
Markie Trattman (Ray Liotta) runs high-stakes card games for the mob. Way back when, he stole from one of the pots and lived to gloat about it. Knowing that if it’s taken again Markie will be suspected, a man known as Squirrel (Vincent Curatola, who played Johnny Sack on HBO’s THE SOPRANOS) enlists a pair of low-level hoods to rob the game. It should be an easy score.
Enter Jackie Cogan (Brad Pitt), a slick, soft-voiced hitman with Johnny Cash on the radio. He knows that whether Trattman had a hand in the heist or not, he should be offed to avoid any other “kids” from taking any more games. Any instability makes the mob look bad and could lead to the games shutting down, which in turn means less revenue. And where does that leave them? As Cogan notes, “America is not a country, it’s a business.”
KILLING THEM SOFTLY is set in a rainy and dark New Orleans, where the roads all look like back alleys eager to collect corpses. Even the daytime scenes carry a certain level of dread. It is a visually impressive work, with one of the more memorable deaths of the decade, set to slow-motion and Ketty Lester’s “Love Letters.” The film doesn’t try to glamorize the seedy world, nor does it try to make a killer into a hero.
In an attempt to add a layer, director Andrew Dominik (2007’s THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD) forges a link between the crime world and the economic crisis, with words from various politicians (Obama and Bush II included) coming through in voiceover. This stretch only hurts and proves to be weak commentary.
Still, there are many great parts of the script, adapted by Dominik from George V. Higgins’ novel Cogan’s Trade (Higgins also penned The Friends of Eddie Coyle, which was adapted into a 1973 movie with Robert Mitchum): the hired hoods (Australian native Ben Mendelsohn and ARGO captive Scott McNairy) have some perfectly worded back-and-forths, while Pitt and James Gandolfini’s scenes have a well-executed sense of former camaraderie.
While KILLING THEM SOFTLY excels in its visuals and dialogue, its strongest point is the cast. Aside from Brad Pitt, who gives Jackie all of the personality and development he’s required, there is a gallery of other talented names who all add to the film: Richard Jenkins, as the Driver, is calm and shows his time spent through his spectacles; Gandolfini, as Mickey, a once-intimidating recruit who is now a hooker-loving drunk, plays the exact opposite of what you’d expect from Tony Soprano with complete confidence; and it’s nice to see Liotta taking a beating instead of spouting manic threats.
KILLING THEM SOFTLY played at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival, where it was nominated for the Palme d’Or.
Video: 2.40:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. The colors, tones and details found in this high-definition transfer are incredible, bringing the production design and cinematography to the forefront. The nighttime exteriors are appropriately gloomy, the day sequences are bright and the clothing and skin tones are textured.
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio; English Dolby Digital 5.1. Subtitles in English and Spanish. The audio transfer, too, is effective, with each gunshot and thud presented with power.
The Making of KILLING THEM SOFTLY (5:17): Writer/director Andrew Dominik, as well as some of the stars (including Richard Jenkins, James Gandolfini and Ray Liotta), discuss the themes, the cast and approaching the subject material.
Deleted Scenes (9:51): There are four here, which can be viewed separately or as a whole. They are: “Janice,” “The Doctor,” “The Doctor, Part 2,” and “Not Working Tonight, Right?”