Killing Them Softly

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Andrew Dominik’s The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford was a graceful masterpiece. His follow-up, Killing Them Softly, is a disaster by comparison. Sure, it’s often entertaining in that ’90s-gangster-film kind of way, filled with thugs who are contemplative, wry, and wise beyond their chosen profession. But if names such as Squirrel and Dillon don’t mean anything to you now -- Dominik adapted Killing Them Softly from a novel -- they likely still won’t mean anything to you after you’ve consumed the entirety of this film, which hacks the story down to 97 minutes without ever giving you a sense of who these people are and why we should care. That it stars Brad Pitt, Ray Liotta, Richard Jenkins, and James Gandolfini deepens the disappointment. Liotta’s hardly in the film at all, Jenkins’ character is poorly defined, and though Gandolfini and Pitt have some good one-liners and, particularly Gandolfini, mesmerizing monologues, their characters feel like square pegs shoved into round holes, forced into the story about little more than the ramifications of a card-game robbery to fluff it out. (TO)