Grabbing the audience by the lapels and never letting go for the entirety of its hypnotic 90-minute running time, auteur Andrew Dominik's third and best feature film, Killing Them Softly, is a masterstroke which will be recognized generations from now as one of this decade's most important films. A high octane crime drama filled with rich subtext, spellbinding sequences, and a muscular miss en scene, the whole picture is a tour de force.
Dominik, an Australian director, has proven himself the most talented motion picture artist to come from down under in the past decade. His film debut, the wonderful Chopper, signaled the birth of a voice to watch;his visceral prison drama cum character study revealed his as a visionary talent, adept at not only atmosphere, but social commentary and directing actors in career high turns. His American debut, the brilliant Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, homaged Altman and Malick, reveling in the beauty of 1970s American cinematic craftsmanship.
Killing Them Softly is that picture's opposite; as fast, mean, and brief as that one was slow-paced, subtle and lengthy. Adapting a 70s novel written by pulp scribe George(Friends of Eddie Coyle)V. Higgins, Dominik immerses us in a modern Boston that could be the 70s, and feels like it, save the running commentary on our country now, as evidenced by President Obama on t.v. sets in the background.
Paralleling the underworld with our political world is a ballsy move, and it works. The intrigues of organized crime, heists and hit men hijinks, are to be relished in a fascinating script cooked up by the incredible Dominik. Brad Pitt, Ray Liotta, Richard Jenkins, and especially James Gandolfini, all turn in excellent performances. The director successfully mixes these instantly recognizable stars with a great cast of unknowns; Scott McNairy, Ben Mendelsohn, Trevor Long, and Max Casella all shine brightly. The fusion of all elements is complete; to my mind this is the best American crime drama in years, and unquestionably the masterpiece of this Fall and Winter; no overblown Oscar wannabe can touch Dominik's cinematic genius.
Containing the best and most realistic heroin-high sequence I've ever witnessed, as well as the most original murder sequence I've seen in some time, Andrew Dominik delivers the goods in spades. Killing Them Softly holds its own against the 70s classics which fueled its fearless creator to spark this celluloid flame in the first place.