Sunday, December 2, 2012
Killing Them Softly and why I liked it.
Man I liked that movie. I’d been waiting eagerly for Killing Them Softly for awhile now. I don’t normally like going to the movies on a Friday night, to many people, to many of them are there because of a lack of anything better to do rather than wanting to actually see a movie. Bravely, I shoved all that to one side and bravely forged my way ahead to see this movie and holy shit what a movie it is.
First and foremost Killing them Softly is a pretty, pretty movie. The whole movie takes place in the bad side of town full of crumbling houses, littered streets, and desperate people. Yet despite all that the movie manages a certain fascinating aesthetic. One of the interesting things about the evolution of the noir genre is the look. It 50’s noir well everyone wore suits and looked spectacular. It didn’t matter how downtrodden you seemed to be if you were in the 50’s you had suits end of story. Life isn’t like that anymore. The hit man played by Brad Pitt wore a leather jacket, the two morons who knock over the card game look like the dressed themselves out of the goodwill’s dumpster. The world looks worn out, dirty, and then it makes it all look good. The movie’s look and feel gets under your skin. It feels distinct very much like we are watching a vision of the world and not just people moving about the world. The movie’s particular opening credits sets the stage well. I didn’t know what to make of them at first but I think now that confusing you is the point., it jangles the nerves, disorients your perceptions, then the movie reorients you the way it wants you to see it. If you let it happen then I think this movie will provide a much richer experience than say locking up and refusing to let it in.
The violence is crisp and it feels violent. The beating ends up being quite frankly hard to watch and the shootings all stand out with clarity. We only see three people die but this movie doesn’t treat death like it is a small thing. This isn’t an action movie where we see our favorite star mow down a dozen goons and then walk off laughing. Violence is resisted by the higher ups but it is inevitable. It is a consequence of a series of actions that lead to the movie taking place. Yet the shooting of Ray Liotta’s character serves as the center piece for the whole movie. It is beautiful and unsettling then the rest of the movie continues on its inexorable path.
So what’s up with the political thing? My friend asked me about what I thought and I threw around the word metaphor and made up a bunch of bullshit on the spot and some of would hold up I think. I am pretty sure I made a decently defensible argument whose details I won’t share with you because I think the argument is crap. Lets not dick around here. This is a mean movie. It is mean spirited the characters are mean. The plot is mean. Some of the stuff that just happens in the background is mean. This is a mean little movie. It has a pretty specific way of seeing the world and I love it. Now there is a decent amount of humor in the movie but hey it is black hearted mean little humor. My favorite kind. Now that I got that out of the way let’s head back to the political thing. It is there, it is nearly impossible to ignore, and yet more often than not I found it funny. The political sound bites, when seen as just another snaky layer of commentary about what is going on in the movie it becomes pretty hilarious. I mean come on Obama talking about concerns with the economy while a bunch of people are being robbed? Pretty golden.
I think because of the political nature of the sound bites there is a lot of temptation to look to much into it. Like somehow the movie is a grand metaphor for american life, or that it is a metaphor for how corporations have come in and crushed free market competition, or hell I dunno raising taxes on the rich versus everyone. The thing is that while you could stretch, bend, and flex the movie in a variety of ways to make these ideas and many others work ultimately they don’t because the movie ultimately isn’t about that. The political thing gives it an extra edge, a way to inject some humor, stuff like that but turning it into a carefully crafted satire on American political life isn’t going to work. While I would love to see something like that I don’t think this movie is lessened by the fact that the political stuff is mostly there instead of soundtrack for a number of scenes. I used that phrase specially because A) This movie has one BAD ASS SOUNDTRACK and B) the director knows how to use music super effectively he uses it to set the mood and to enhance the drama of any scene that has any sort of music in it. Well when I started thinking of the political stuff as just another part of the soundtrack then it becomes very interesting. I would call it a bold experiment and while I found it exceptionally effective I think it does end up providing a red herring in terms of real time film interpretation that some people might find distracting. That said I do love the idea of alternative soundtrack solutions and ultimately I feel that this experiment is both interesting and successful.
Another way to look at the political side of the movie is to demonstrate just how amazingly out of step it all is for the rest of America. The main movers and shakers in the film are all career criminals. New York Micky, Brad Pitt, his handler, Ray Liotta all of them were criminals when economic times were great and they are all criminals when things have fallen apart. It isn’t like they lost normal jobs and turned to a life of crime. It also doesn’t particularly suggest that anything real has happened. The robbery of the card game isn’t to save the rat’s failing dry cleaning business no. The plot of the movie would of happened in both boom times as well as the bust times. Throughout the movie we here speeches from both Obama and Bush and ultimately they just seem hollow, alien, they talk about solutions but the people in the movie were having problems when things were fine let alone falling apart. The disconnect is enough that people wonders what it means and I think that the question itself is precisely the point. Ultimartly what do these people get us? In the good times as well as the bad there are still going to be people who don’t have enough. People who steal because they believe they can. People will die so that other people will feel more secure. This is the world Killing Them Softly presents to us.