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If you want to watch Scarface - go watch Scarface. This movie isn't. KTS is a 180 from the majority of crime classics and their many copycats.
The factor that clumps most crime genre flicks together is the top-down perspective. For instance, in the Departed it was the rats joining up with the heads of their respective sides of the law - Costello and Queenin. The same with Pauli in Goodfellas, the Don in Godfather.
KTS splits apart because it is a film about crime from the perspective of the prey. The opening shot is a junkie in a cold, wet New Orleans wind, lost in a whirlwind of trash against harsh white sky. This is the view of hopelessness - its also the familiarity of many post-disaster neighborhoods. These characters absorbed into the criminal underworld, not because they are evil, but because they haven't many other options and they're too dumb to know the danger they are in. This is the what KTS communicates to us with the background broadcast of the '08 elections and financial meltdown.
When bullets fly in this film - you feel it, because you feel for the characters, which is why having Cogan as its opaque center is so blisteringly effective. He is pragmatic, unapologetic and a completely objective lens to see through. He is the balance between the corrupt political overcast and slime at the bottom of the barrel.
"America isn't a country. It's a business."
Cogan is the the cleanup for the corporation. He snips the buds, ties up the loose ends. He is the inevitability of the business world.
"They are all nice guys."
The humanization of the characters drains you as one by one they slip into darkness. Cogan's jaws open and you understand that the characters are rats in a labyrinth, they are all gears that will eventually be discarded. The soundtrack rhetoric quite fluidly illuminates the movies' greater statement. With all the economic jargon in a ping-pong propaganda game there are people sleeping out on the streets - and a hungry dog has to eat. And all the way up the food chain, through a shady poker game in the back of some shut-down strip mall, to the podium and our new elected president, everyone is a hungry dog here.
This is a methodical film that takes its time with each individual scene. It plays with time and space, slowing down, drifting in and out and then exploding. Cogan walks through the sparks and smoke, he is our escort in understanding the nature and design of things, and he does with an unforgettable composure.
The elements of the film - acting, cinematography, etc, adapt to its scope and drive, the purpose that the makers sat down and did it. Each end does its job, and considering where you end up there's not much room for improvement in any area. Is it the Godfather? No. But its something completely different, and for what KTS was intending to accomplish, it was excellent.
Don't be deterred by the negative reviews, but don't go in expecting the recycling of Scorsese and Copella. This a picture of its own kind, of its own vision. Let it move you.
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