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Killing Them Softly
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Reviews & Ratings for
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264 out of 411 people found the following review useful:

Every review I've read has been wrong

10/10
Author: winst from United States
14 December 2012

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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171 out of 241 people found the following review useful:

Solid, Hero-less, Unsentimental Crime Movie

8/10
Author: chase_g from United States
17 December 2012

This movie was done in a style that was quite unique from your standard issue shoot 'em up or Scorsese gangster movie in a number of ways I found refreshing. It slowed down the pace of dialogue scenes to a relatable and believable level, made the violence far more realistic, and didn't overdo the music. Those who can't handle too much, or too realistic of violence won't like this movie.

Some might feel the dialogue makes the movie drag just a bit, but if you like realistic filmmaking, they've made it feel as if you're sitting in on actual conversations. The scenes and cuts are long but are livened up with the fairly constant scummy-ness of the characters. James Gandolfini seemed to prattle on a little too much but I suppose that was the point.

The violence can be summed up as unsentimental; much of it can be defined by the difficult achievement of not falling into played out Hollywood clichés. There are no heros in this movie as the director doesn't use cheap tricks, like voiceovers, disproportionate screen time, or happy music to convince you that one criminal is worth rooting for over the others. There is no glorification or demonization of violence, as it is depicted without the influence of music, and the audience can decide for themselves about what is being shown. There are no Schwartzenegger-style shoot outs, as the violence is usually sudden but brutal and loud. Every gunshot is closer to being as loud as real life, so you get a little jolt with every shot like being at a gun range.

The use of music is also played down and important in making both the violence and dialogue distinct. There is some music which gives the movie some energy, but overall far less than the average Hollywood film. This adds an element of suspense as the music doesn't give away what is about to happen in every scene (like a movie with ominous music when something bad is about to happen, etc.). The lack of music also allows the audience a semblance of neutrality in what they are observing; characters are allowed to be likable without being good.

This is the sort of movie you could expect if the hero was removed and you only had the villains and thugs left over--it is far less boring.

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106 out of 160 people found the following review useful:

Starts well, then collapses under the weight of its own self satisfaction

7/10
Author: Kookyburra from United Kingdom
3 October 2012

This is a film that looks outstanding. It has that feel of the best seventies cinema. The acting similarly is outstanding but still, a few things stop it from being the stone cold classic it could have been.

The cracks started to show when Cogan(Pitt) has his first talk with Mickey(Gandolfini). It's the latest in a long series of head to heads that play out more like acting master-classes than anything relating to the film. That scene effectively breaks the spell and reminds us that we are watching "good quality acting" combined with "a good script".

The film seems to go off the rails after this. Any charm or involvement is soon stopped by another showy scene from the director who seems more concerned with showing off his film making skills than actually making a good film.

The final thing that jars is Brad Pitt. He had the same effect on Fight Club. Pitt is too big a star for a film like this. He simply doesn't convince as the cynical cold blooded killer. Why would such a man spend that much time on his physical appearance for instance?. A more earthy, hard boiled actor could have made the character believable.

Not a bad film but overbearingly condescending at the finale (which I won't spoil here). The film that went before doesn't earn that pay off and its impact isn't felt on the screen. Which makes the end deeply unsatisfying.

Shame really as with more editing and less egos involved, this could have been so much better.

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239 out of 439 people found the following review useful:

Yes, They Can Still Make 'Em Like They Used To

10/10
Author: John from United States
24 July 2012

Brad Pitt and Andrew Dominik's fantastic Killing Them Softly has the rigor and grace of the great American crime pictures of the 1970s. A loose adaptation of George V Higgins' great 1974 crime novel Cogan's Trade. A fulfilling elegant and stylish black comedy. The script, acting, direction were all superbly done, and should be commended. Although the film can be very pessimistic, it does have a message, one that should resonate in the near future. The whole cast was extremely effective and highly believable. However Brad Pitt is simply terrific, and deserves much acclaim that could come to him. Just like The Assassination of Jesse James, Pitt plays subtle, but yet powerful sociopath and it ripples the film throughout. James Gandolfini Gandolfini is excellent as a boozy, broken old assassin. Ray Liotta offers a grotesque reprise of the type of manic gangster he played in his younger years in Goodfellas. Richard Jenkins is solemn as ever as the killer's contact, relaying back messages from the Mob and trying to beat Cogan down on prices. All the men here are relentlessly sexist and foul-mouthed.

Dominik shoots the action in a grimy shallow focus and his screenplay is tough as steel and shot through with pessimistic, even black humor. There is no mistaking the fact that Dominik loves his characters, letting their dialogue shine uninterrupted. Although the The political message is a little heavy-handed and a bit repetitive, Andrew Domink crafts a memorable and highly thought-provoking crime film, with Brad Pitt shows the world again, that he's a fantastic actor that always surpasses the hype around him.

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142 out of 262 people found the following review useful:

Definitely Not Anywhere Near a Classic

1/10
Author: siliconvalyguy from San Jose, CA
30 November 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I actually had no idea what to expect from 'Killing Them Softly', as I'd not seen any trailers or heard any gossip or chatter about it online. So, I guess you could say I sincerely went in with no preconceptions or prejudices for or against this film. That said, it was simply one of the worst filmgoing experiences I've had this past year. The story that the movie started with and the two thieves involved in the card room heist were honestly the most interesting thing about the movie, but it was obvious that they were there as a backdrop (excuse) to bring in Brad Pitt's enforcer. Between Pitt's completely lackluster performance, James Gandolfini's weird drunken pervert of a hit man, and Richard Jenkins' worthless mob lawyer, they managed to suck the air out of every single scene they were on screen. I readily admit that I actually found myself falling asleep and then both wanting to walk out, while hoping there would be a much better ending to make up for the previous 100 minutes of stupidity. There is absolutely no redeeming quality within this movie. And the added inclusion of multiple scenes or audio of Barack Obama's election in 2008--Pitt is a MAJOR Obama supporter--were both odd and seemingly had nothing to do with the plot whatsoever, so they just made the movie drag that much more. I won't give away the ending or what happens to whom, but I honestly should, just to save all of you the pain of sitting through this horrible excuse for a paycheck for Brad Pitt.

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45 out of 70 people found the following review useful:

A forceful socio-political commentary

6/10
Author: freemantle_uk from United Kingdom
29 November 2012

The idea of film being used as a medium for political themes and socio-economic commentary is nothing new, even recently with films such as Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps and Margin Call aiming to tackle the 2008 financial crisis. But few films have been as unsubtle as Killing Them Softly.

Set to the backdrop of the 2008 election, the criminal underworld of an American city has been hit by its own financial crisis after a mob poker game is robbed by two criminals (Scoot McNairy and Ben Mendelsohn). With no trades or money being moved, a mob manager (Richard Jenkins) brings in a fixer, Jackie Cogan (Brad Pitt), to solve the situation. But none of his actions brings back confidence, whether right or wrong.

Writer/director Andrew Dominik admirably uses a gangster story as a metaphor for the financial crisis, but the handling was atrocious. Dominik has no faith in his audience to draw these connections, and even worse, come away with its own conclusions; he opts to spoon-feed us the cliff notes as we watch.

This is most evident with the constant use of speeches by George W. Bush and Barack Obama made at time, enforcing the parallels Dominik wanted to make. There are constant references to terminology used at the time, particularly the theme of bringing back confidence to the world, the theme that public perspective is more important than actual actions and we are reminded that the gangster world's situation is the same as the financial world's one. This forceful approach does not allow us to see a natural story.

Killing Them Softly is a very dialogue-driven film that breaks the old cinematic maxim of "show, don't tell." We are told that the mob has turned corporate and that there is a crisis, but we do not get to see it. It would have been more interesting to see mob bosses arguing and coming up with theories and seeing that gangsters were unwilling to make any deals in the midst of the crisis. Killing Them Softly ends up rather dull as a result.

There are some moments that show what Dominik is capable of: the robbery scene was filled with tension and things felt like they would actually kick off. Whenever violence was used in general, it was incredibly grim and brutal. There is a highly stylised moment when Cogan commits his first assassination, completely played out in slow motion — a brilliant little sequence. The film hits hardest in these scenes.

The big saving grace of Killing Them Softly is the acting. There is a great cast with Pitt, Jenkins and James Gandolfini being the biggest draws. They were committed actors doing the best they could, elevating the dry material provided with excellent delivery and chemistry. Pitt and McNairy played the most likable (and I use that term loosely) characters, and were the most well-drawn and conflicted characters in the film. McNairy was the most human, reacting naturally to his situation, and Pitt is able to be cold-hearted and professional when he acts upon his deadly task.

Killing Them Softly is a film that feels its political parallels are enough of a mask for it to be seen as an intelligential masterpiece, but it feels too demeaning to have everything spelled out like that, which was made worse given the story played second fiddle to these political parallels. There was potential for a great film if there was a good re-write, but it ends up being one of biggest disappointments of 2012.

Please visit www.entertainmentfuse.com

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36 out of 53 people found the following review useful:

As gritty and grimy as crime heists come!

9/10
Author: Dan Ashley (DanLives1980) from United Kingdom
15 March 2013

Yet another great film being given a bad name by "reviewers trying to do us a favour" (really??? like you're a shepherd and we're all sheep here???). If you're going to read a review, here's one that speaks in all fairness and without trying to glorify it.

'Killing Them Softly' is a contemporary multi-narrative crime drama that oversees what crime has become to the mafia since we've seen what years of recession have done to America, post 9/11. It's a film you have to settle into and to watch and listen carefully, yet it provides us with storytelling style very similar to the likes of Quentin Tarantino and classic Danny Boyle.

It also makes good use of some classic conventions and you may notice a little bit of Mean Streets, Lock Stock & Two Smoking Barrels, Chopper, Pulp Fiction, Trainspotting etc.

When ex-convict Frankie and his Australian heroin-addict friend Russell are employed to hold up a mafia poker game in their rundown dead end town, they get away with it, though causing the local economy to collapse and putting mob boss Markie Trattman (Ray Liotta) in the frame.

The dons send mob enforcer Jackie (Brad Pitt) over to deal with it and to set an example, he methodically sets about cleaning up in due fashion.

That is the plot, pure and simple, but aside from that, 'Killing Them Softly' is more a film about the bleak, harsh reality of crime in the modern day American towns that the government has all but abandoned and it is therefore about the sheer dead-end desperation of a certain breed of people.

Unemployment, recession, drug addiction, violence, desperation, failing health, wilful self-destruction and the disgusting manner in which people regard each other with - it all adds up to one great stark reality. The only way that the government has succeeded in destroying organised crime is by destroying its own country's economy. Desperate people will do anything to survive knowing that, if they give up, they are as good as dead. And that sets the tone for this movie from beginning to end.

Not surprisingly in hindsight, this film has no real lead characters, but universally supporting characters that serve the story until its bitter ending where we are treated to a summary in words between two characters. This helps to give a sense that nobody is of any real importance to each other, which is true to the nature of most of its characters.

If you like your crime movies real, you'll love this. I'm so surprised at how seamless it is, and also how easy it is to watch despite how well acted and intense it becomes. Dark, gritty, grimy, filthy, absurd, depressing and yet bold with a few good laughs!

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156 out of 294 people found the following review useful:

Terrible...only film i've ever walked out on

1/10
Author: spelman-andrew from Dublin
29 September 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I left the cinema three quarters the way through this film.....never had to do that before. It dragged on and on and on. The endless dialog that had nothing to do with the film was infuriating to say the least. At one point James Gandolfini talks about getting a divorce from his wife for a good ten minutes which is completely pointless and has no relevance to the story line at all. This is just one example of a constant series of ridiculous conversations that the film is riddled with. Throughout the film they seem to have some sort of political undercurrent in the background between George Bush and Barack O Bama which I couldn't get my head around. Whether Brad Pitt was trying to get across his political views or what was going on is anyone's guess. I have no problem with the acting in this film....what I can't understand is why Prad Pitt and Ray Liotta (both accomplished and celebrated actors) agreed to do this film. Please save your money and time and don't go!

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125 out of 235 people found the following review useful:

Want my time back

1/10
Author: l m from United States
1 December 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This was horrible. I wish I had known I was walking into a movie with an entire soundtrack composed of Obama campaign speeches. James Gandolfini's character was pointless. The shooting of Ray Liotta was the only good part, ironically the film died with his character. The murder scenes were well done, but very predictable. If you barely follow any real plot, provide an awful soundtrack, and push politics, you could consider being kind enough to provide your bored-to-death audience with some gratuitous nudity. Unfortunately, even the one hooker in the movie was unattractive and a little too fat for Hollywood. If you are considering this just turn on C-SPAN and beat your head against the floor for two hours. The end result will be the same. The constant anti-corporate rhetoric spewed by overpaid actors is getting old. If you are going to push some personal political agenda, at least do so in the context of a film that is moderately entertaining.

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17 out of 22 people found the following review useful:

A lot of the negative reviewers seem to have completely missed the point

7/10
Author: Thomas Aitken from New Zealand
11 February 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

What a lot of the negative reviewers seem to have completely missed about this movie is that it isn't actually a crime movie - instead it's a metaphor for modern America.

That's why the film contains so many political speeches in its background soundtrack - they're meant to be there to draw the link between what is unfolding on the screen and what is happening in the real America today.

This film is rich with different layers of irony; the most obvious of which is the fact that the men being killed are being punished for simply doing what their killers do themselves day in and day out - commit crime and steal from others.

It seems to me that the mafia bosses are symbolic of the politicians who blame the business sector, and then seek to punish them, for what are actually failings of the system that they continue to prop up and exploit for their own ends. And just consider the fact that after killing several men for being thieves, these exact same mafia bosses then try and rob Brad Pitt's character of what he is actually financially entitled to from them.

The reason both Obama and Bush are heard at different times in the film is because we are meant to realize that this problem is not exclusive to either the left or the right, it is about what America, as a whole, has allowed itself to become as a nation. And also to highlight the fact that both left and right have allowed this problem to persist and grow.

Brad Pitt's speech at the end of the film is really the essence of what this film is about - a cynical examination of the death of the American dream and American idealism.

I think that in time this film will come to be more highly regarded as a clever piece of commentary on present day America - and when it is viewed in that light (rather than as a gangster film) it makes much more sense to the viewer.

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