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Killing Them Softly
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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.
- Parents say
- Kids say
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?
- In theaters: November 30, 2012
- On DVD or streaming: March 26, 2013
- Cast: Brad Pitt, James Gandolfini, Ray Liotta, Richard Jenkins
- Director: Andrew Dominik
- Studio: Weinstein Co.
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 97 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: violence, sexual references, pervasive language, and some drug use