Unapologetically brutal, the heist/crime drama “Killing Them Softly” sometimes annoys with its uneven transitions, testing with its jarring cuts and jumpy editing quite early into it. But despite those, the film by “The Assassination of Jesse James’” director Andrew Dominik has its smooth moments, uncompromising in its depiction of urban thuggery and violence.
An efficient enforcer (Brad Pitt) goes after inexperienced crooks (Scott McNairy and Ben Mendelsohn), who brashly stole from mobsters gathered at an illegal gambling den. The young men enjoy their loot, rewarding themselves with escapist doses and other luxuries, but it’s only a matter of time before their quickly shrinking world is turned upside down.
“Killing Them Softly” doesn’t mince words or scenarios; we get a pretty clear—and immensely uncomfortable—idea of how awful the characters are, and how disconcerting their blood-drenched undertakings can be. With most of the characters this unlikeable, it’s not hard to tune out, as one heinous act is succeeded by another. One’s initial discomfort will eventually be replaced by desensitization.
Again, it’s not an easy film to watch. The recurring metaphor for the urban crime enterprise is American politics, with campaigning candidates’ thoughts and clichés flavoring the seedy and dirty dealings of its various players. The delivery of that connection isn’t smoothly executed, and actually comes off as a bit pretentious.
The film is faster-paced than Dominik’s 2007 film, which also starred Pitt. The actor doesn’t have the same charisma or mystique here, as his hitman role is mostly contained and stoic. “Killing Them Softly,” for all its flaws, unabashedly characterizes chaos and criminals with its own distinct brand of dread and dreariness.
The film is an Ayala Cinemas exclusive.