Sorry if you were all psyched about Grand Hotel, but I thought I'd talk about one you might actually have seen. Andrew Dominik's Killing Them Softly is out on DVD now, and I thought I'd tell you what I thought of it.
First off, the movie has nothing to do with Roberta Flack. It is in some ways an update of The Godfather for the recession era. It is about Jackie (Brad Pitt), a hit man sent to deal with the disruption of an underground gambling ring in New Orleans. It isn't necessarily a gangster movie, though. It is a commentary on the feasibility of the American dream in hard times.
Right off, the film is very visually compelling. Dominik knows how to use his camera to tell the story. His is a very unique style, and it is present throughout. It is much less understated than his first film, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (which you need to see if you haven't). It is all very stylized, but not distracting. One sequence involving a hit plays out like a dance in slow-motion and is among the more beautiful segments of the film.
The cohesive visual portion of the film is not necessarily matched by the narrative portion. The story arc is a little unconventional and is initially hard to follow. In fact, there isn't really a "main character" like one normally conceives of. Of course there is Jackie, but he doesn't enter the picture until 25 minutes in. There are also the poor guys he is sent to take care of for whom we feel more sympathy. This isn't to say that the film is poorly written. On the contrary, it is immediately real and each character is a palpable thing. But it does ask you to take it on its own terms.
I said before the film is an update of The Godfather, and I will explain why. In The Godfather, anyone can still make it. America rewards hard work, even if that work is crime. Of course later on the series that is questioned, but the Corleone family thrives on what America gives them, a solid hope in the future. Like in Assassination, Dominik breaks from the conventions of genre cinema. Here, that dream has become impossible. Even crime has become a corporation, and the corporation is the only machine that matters. More often than not it is a broken machine, as well. Rhetoric about Hope and America is empty talk. In that sense the movie is more about America, and America is the broken machine.
Of course this is more than just a protest film. Good "gangster" movies have always been good at showing us versions of ourselves that might be less-than-moral, characteristics we usually channel into acceptable activities like business. Killing Them Softly only shows us what we need to make it in the world that hope in the future built.
Since this year has been so slow, let me know if there is anything you want me to see and talk about. Leave a comment with your suggestion and you could win something! Like me watching the movie you want me to watch!
by Chase Harrison