Ray Liotta acts anything but Softly.
KILLING THEM SOFTLY (Andrew Dominik). 97 minutes. Opens Friday (November 30). See listing. Rating: NN
Five years ago, Andrew Dominik and Brad Pitt made The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford, an elegiac deconstruction of the myth of the American outlaw.
They're back at it with Killing Them Softly, a more modern tale of small-time mobsters arguing over crime and punishment in a decaying city while the 2008 U.S. election campaign plays out in the background.
Two skells (Ben Mendelsohn and Argo's Scoot McNairy) are hired to hit an underground card game, figuring the blame will fall on its shady proprietor (Ray Liotta). But the local fixer (Richard Jenkins) brings in a cleaner (Pitt) who's smart enough to see the truth and set out after those responsible.
This sounds like a great idea for a thriller, but Dominik has loftier ambitions. He's making a movie about negotiations (because America is all about negotiations, man!), so every scene is a conversation between someone who wants something and someone who doesn't want to give that something up. And those conversations are very long and slathered in thick layers of irony in case we miss the larger point.
Dominik's not doing anything Elmore Leonard, Quentin Tarantino and dozens of imitators haven't done before. He's just doing it more insistently, and not nearly as well as he believes.