Killing Them Softly

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Killing Them Softly Movie Poster Image
Brad Pitt is magnetic in smart, cynical, bloody crime movie.
  • R
  • 2012
  • 97 minutes

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 4 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

This extremely cynical movie sees all of America, including organized crime, as a corporation focused mainly on the bottom line. It denies that there's anything like community, and posits that people -- in reality -- generally don't care about one another.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The characters in this movie are hit men, alcoholics, whoremongers, gamblers, gangsters, robbers, junkies, and drug dealers, not to mention selfish and greedy. Not one of them learns any lessons during the course of the story.


Three characters are shot and killed, with lots of spurting blood. One of the hits is shown in ultra-slow-motion, with blood and brains spraying in great detail. A character is beaten senseless, with more spurting blood (and vomit). Two criminals are shown driving a carload of kidnapped dogs, with dog excrement all over the windows. The car is blown to smithereens and crashes into a bystander.


A scene begins just after a character completes a transaction with a prostitute. She zips up her dress and collects her money (no nudity shown). There's some very crass sex talk in this scene and others.


Language is extremely strong and frequent, mainly in the use of "f--k" and its various permutations. Other words include "s--t," "c--k," "p---y," "a--hole," "ass," "anus," "nuts," "screw," "d--k," "prick," "hell," "damn," and "bastard," as well as "for Christ's sakes" and "Jesus" (as an exclamation). Characters also give the middle finger.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

One secondary character is a drug dealer and is shown shooting heroin. The movie tries to replicate the experience of being on heroin by showing the character's point of view as he nods off during a conversation. Another secondary character is shown to be an alcoholic, chugging down martinis and beers and later whisky. The main character drinks a few swigs of beer in more than one scene.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Killing Them Softly -- a crime movie based on a 1970s novel by George V. Higgins and starring Brad Pitt -- has a few extremely violent beatings and killings, with lots of spurting blood. Language is also very strong and frequent, including an almost constant use of "f--k." One character is shown having slept with a prostitute (though there's no nudity), and there's some very crass sex talk in a few scenes. A character is a drug dealer and uses heroin in a vivid scene, and another character is an alcoholic. Overall the movie has a shockingly cynical worldview, but smart older teens and adults might be interested in thinking about and discussing what it has to say.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byWinston Bay March 11, 2013

More Realist than Cynical, Though No-less American

Jackie Cogan is not so much a cynic as he is a hard realist. His means of income notwithstanding, he is no less a tradesman; an American professional who acknow... Continue reading
Adult Written byCount Tyrone Rugen December 21, 2012

Too gritty and too real, with needlessly coarse vulgarity as a cherry on top.

Extreme language and extreme and needlessly lengthy coarse and vulgar discussions of sex and sexual excapades were enough to make me get up and leave after 20... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byLoranikas303 February 28, 2021

Killing Them Hardly

Trash but Brad Pitt was in there!
Teen, 13 years old Written byLeonvol February 3, 2021


Really good movie. Really fantastic acting from Pitt and liotta. Has really cool scenes that can be violent. But this movie is about gangsters soo of cause it’s... Continue reading

What's the story?

Three not-too-bright criminals -- Frankie (Scoot McNairy), Russell (Ben Mendelsohn), and Johnny Amato (Vincent Curatola) -- cook up a too-good-too-be-true scheme. They decide to rob a Mob card game run by Markie Trattman (Ray Liotta). The idea is that Trattman will get the blame, since he already ripped off his own card game once before. The Mob calls in hit man Jackie (Brad Pitt) to clean things up, and Jackie hires an old colleague, Mickey (James Gandolfini), to help, but Mickey is more concerned with liquor and prostitutes. So Jackie must finish the job by himself. The trouble is that Jackie doesn't like to get personally involved in his hits; he prefers to "kill them softly." How much bloodshed will it take before things are finally set right?

Is it any good?

While this movie doesn't particularly advance or comment upon the crime genre, it does stand as a prime example of it. With KILLING THEM SOFTLY, New Zealand director Andrew Dominik, who also made the great The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, concentrates more on colorful dialogue than on action, but without the jokey, self-effacing quality of much of the post-Tarantino generation. Set in 2008 during the financial crisis and presidential election, the movie has a very cynical worldview; it attempts to draw a line between these events and organized crime, although it doesn't burrow very deep with the idea.

Dominik's set pieces are outstanding, rich with atmosphere and rhythmic dialogue, including a couple of playful flashbacks and a mesmerizing scene that vividly portrays a heroin high, as well as some ironic use of pop music. Pitt is especially commanding, using his hypnotic quality to take control of every scene.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Killing Them Softly's violence. How does the impact of what you see here compare to what's in horror/slasher movies? What does it mean when Pitt's character talks about killing his targets "softly"? Does he actually do that?

  • Is James Gandolfini's character an alcoholic? What makes him drink? Does he appear to be drinking for pleasure? Are there consequences for his drinking?

  • Do you agree with the main character's assessment that America is a business and not a community? Why or why not?

  • Why is the movie set in 2008? What does the story have in common with the financial collapse and the election of that year?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love thrills

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