Andrew Dominik’s third feature film, following the little known Chopper and the celebrated The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, puts a unique spin on the mob movie template. Throughout the duration of the film, the political speeches of Barack Obama and George W. Bush are heard from car radios and televisions. In the excerpts, the presidents are always addressing the economy. No, the movie is not a political statement. Killing Them Softly compares crime against the mob to economic crisis. With a master class of actors and a smart screenplay, the film makes its points simple and obvious, but the movie never relies on these comparisons to carry it.
Dominik’s film is a masterpiece of minimalism. It is stylistically sound and fueled by its dialogue, which is fascinating to listen to. There is tension in the conversations and the cast provides attitudes and characters that strengthen every line. If there is a false note in this movie, I did not detect it. It puzzles me that the movie was not met with the acclaim that greeted Dominik’s last film upon its premiere. Killing Them Softly is about an hour shorter and every bit as well made and entertaining as the director’s last film. I probably enjoyed this film better than Jesse James, but I suppose its main significance is that it shows Dominik is beginning to put together an interesting and impressive filmography. It is debatable whether or not this is his best film yet. Regardless of what the correct opinion is (if there is a correct one), I suggest that you see it for yourself.