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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Andrew Dominik
Cast:
Brad Pitt, James Gandolfini, Richard Jenkins, Scoot McNairy, Ben Mendelsohn, Ray Liotta, Vincent Curatola
Writing Credits:
Andrew Dominik, George V. Higgins (based on the novel, "Cogan's Trade")

Tagline:
In America you're on your own.

Synopsis:
Jackie Cogan is an enforcer hired to restore order after three dumb guys rob a Mob protected card game, causing the local criminal economy to collapse.

Box Office:
Budget
$15 million.
Opening Weekend
$6.812 million on 2424 screens.
Domestic Gross
$14.938 million.

MPAA:
Rated R

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1/16X9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
English

Runtime: 98 min.
Price: $29.98
Release Date: 3/26/2013

Bonus:
• “The Making of Killing Them Softly” Featurette
• Four Deleted Scenes
• Previews


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Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Killing Them Softly (2012)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 2, 2013)

In 2011, Brad Pitt starred in two Academy Award-nominated movies: The Tree of Life and Moneyball. He also got an Oscar nod as Best Actor for his work in the latter.

2012 went less well for the actor. Pitt appeared in one movie, and it flopped. Killing Them Softly received mixed reviews and tanked at the box office, where it made a miserable $14 million. (Yes, that’s a smidgen more than Tree of Life, but no one expected the Terrence Malick “art house flick” to make money.)

Despite the negatives attached to the film, I like Pitt enough that I wanted to give Softly a look. Set in 2008, underground card games work as a crucial part of a local gangster economy. A few years earlier, mobster Markie Trattman (Ray Liotta) robbed his own set-up, an action that shut down the games for quite a while. When they resumed, Markie eventually admitted he perpetrated the heist, but no one really seemed to care at that point.

Small-time hood Johnny Amato (Vincent Curatola) thinks the time is ripe to knock off another game, especially because he believes Markie will take the rap. He hires thugs Frankie (Scoot McNairy) and Russell (Ben Mendelsohn) to do this, and they pull off the crime.

Once again, this harpoons the local gangster economy, though not with the ramifications Amato and company expected, as no one thinks Trattman did it. The local bosses bring in hitman Jackie Cogan (Pitt) to get to the bottom of events and settle affairs.

In Softly, we get a fairly simple crime story bogged down with delusions of grandeur. Rather than focus on the basic narrative, it comes with ample political/economic metaphors. The choice to set the tale in 2008 doesn’t come as an accident, for the film uses the presidential campaign and the economic meltdown as backdrop/analogies.

Analogies that don’t work, in my opinion. While I sort of admire the ambition to make this more than just a standard mobster flick, the pretensions tend to backfire. They distract from the inherent power of the story and weigh down the flick with its thin metaphors and commentary; we’d have been better off without them.

In addition, director Andrew Dominik tends toward distracting stylistic excesses. For instance, one scene with heroin addict Russell tries to give us events from his POV. This means dreamy pacing/focus intended to let us see life through the junkie’s eyes. This doesn’t add to the story; it just feels like a pointless cinematic choice.

These misfires are a shame because otherwise, Softly has potential – and even with the flaws, it remains fairly involving. It comes with a solid cast, and they do pretty good work. In particular, Richard Jenkins makes the most of his limited screentime as the officious middleman who works with Jackie for the bosses; he seems out of place among these thugs and lowlifes and manages to turn in a compelling portrait.

The nature of the criminal economy also manages to make the tale interesting. While we’re used to mobster flicks with semi-omnipotent bosses, Softly lacks a leadership core. In fact, we don’t get to know anything about the chiefs, and they seem as mired in indecision and confusion as everyone else. That’s an unusual and effective choice that adds some juice to a tale that could’ve become trite.

All of this leaves Softly as a generally intriguing but spotty crime flick. While I find more than a few strong elements, the negatives cause more of a drag on it than I’d like.


The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio B/ Bonus D+

Killing Them Softly appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Though it never really excelled, the transfer seemed perfectly competent.

Sharpness was usually fine. Some shots appeared a little soft, but those were exceptions to the rule. The majority of the movie provided good delineation and accuracy. Some mild examples of jagged edges and shimmering occurred, and I saw a little light edge enhancement. Source flaws remained absent.

Like most modern thrillers, colors tended to be subdued, as things usually went down a somewhat cool, desaturated path. The hues looked fine within those parameters. Blacks were decent, though I thought they could be somewhat mushy, and shadows tended to be a little heavy. Neither issue was a major concern, but I felt they made the image less pleasing than I’d like. Nonetheless, this was a generally positive presentation.

Along the same lines, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Softly offered moderately above average material. For the most part, the soundfield stayed limited. Street ambiance did the most to open up the track, particularly around vehicles and weapon fire. Those used all the speakers to decent advantage and formed a good sense of place.

Music showed nice stereo imaging and also spread to the surrounds in a modest but satisfying way. I couldn’t cite a memorable sequence, though, since nothing here was especially impressive in terms of spatiality or involvement.

Audio quality always pleased. Music was bright and dynamic, and effects followed suit. Those elements seemed clear and accurate throughout the movie, and the louder bits showed solid presence. Speech sounded concise and natural, with no edginess or other problems. This was a fairly well-executed – if not ambitious – mix.

Only minor extras pop up here. The Making of Killing Them Softly fills five minutes, 17 seconds with info from writer/director Andrew Dominik and actors Richard Jenkins, James Gandolfini, Scott McNairy, Ray Liotta, and Vincent Curatola. We learn about story/themes, cast and performances, and Dominik’s work on the set. We get a few decent thoughts but “Making” is too brief to add up to much.

Four Deleted Scenes run a total of nine minutes, 51 seconds. We get “Janice” (2:17), “The Doctor” (2:33), “The Doctor, Part 2” (2:23) and “’Not Working Tonight, Right?’” (2:38). These offer more anecdotes from the various characters. They’re moderately interesting but not especially valuable.

The disc opens with ads for Silver Linings Playbook, The Master and Broken City. No trailer for Softly appears here.

In a genre that usually focuses on powerful godfathers and goodfellas, Killing Them Softly concentrates on lower level criminals. It often does so in an effective manner, but a mix of pretensions cause problems along the way. The DVD gives us generally good picture and audio but it lacks meaty bonus materials. While I think the film doesn’t live up to its potential, it has enough going for it to merit a look.

Viewer Film Ratings: 5 Stars Number of Votes: 2
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