Thursday, May 30, 2013

Killing Them Softly

I’m talking about that most arrogant of self-centered people. The guy who cops a dated style but wears it like he invented it. His whole attitude a transparent grab for attention. And when he talks, every subject leads back to him. Sure, you hate him, everyone does. But there’s a small bit of respect for the conviction put into the whole charade. It being hideous may be part of the intent and definitely part of the charm.

I’m not sure I can call Killing Them Softly a good or bad movie. I can say I couldn’t help but stare and appreciate. The main reason I kept watching was that each character felt whole and independent. Instead of characters moving in to press a theme or plot further along, it felt that the narrative gets waylaid by these people. The audience gets a mini-character study while ideas / concepts trace through them. But the power came from each of these people not caring at all what came before them. It became their movie as soon they got the camera. Really, it was so arresting that had I been told how the whole thing ended, I would have kept watching to see these characters.

As for these ideas / concepts / themes, Killing Them Softly comes out really over-the-top. I cringed at the naked stretch towards “art house”. It screams “I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY”, but then leaves the audience alone after that to supply the “what”. Brad Pit has a fun monologue at the end to summarize the one undeniable message of the piece. You know, in case everything that came before was too subtle for you (it won’t be).It’s tough not to see the willful self-destruction of every character and the demonization of corporate America / corporate culture. The idea is fun to turn over in your head, “organized crime has gone to the dogs”. It reminds me a quote from my father (I don’t know where he got it), that  “___ could screw up a dumpster”.  Citing corporate America as the source of all the nation’s ills isn’t new, but tracing it this far down is. Or like the mobster who robs his own games of poker, there’s this wink Killing Them keeps giving out. How serious / self-aware is the movie? Because robbing your own game of poker that is entirely attended by gangsters is both the most clever and dumbest thing a person could do. It’s a mind-game you play with yourself. (I recognize how stupid that sentence can sound. That’s the point)

It’s way too easy to throw this film out based on a surface understanding. The opening invites it, but then the acting is so good. You can take one glance at that self-absorbed person and know everything, maybe, but for me the idea keeps lingering… Is it a play on expectations or just willful blindness?

This film felt no need to justify itself. It simply did what it wanted. I approve. 

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