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Wednesday 17 October 2012

Killing them Softly (2012) Film, written and directed by Andrew Dominik, 9* out of 10

Ah, the joys of being middle management as the economy enters crisis mode. In Killing Them Softly, organised crime is the setting for an insightful and witty crime action film which can also serve as a case-study in organisational behavioural. Indeed it should form part of the MBA curriculum for any self-respecting senior executive in the organised crime sector, but the film also holds many lessons for budding professionals and managers in other slightly less violent business sectors.

Frankie (Scoot MacNairy) and his Australian drug-addict mate Russell (Ben Mendelssohn) are small-time gangsters - and they are skint. Johnny Amato (Vincent Curatola)  a risk-averse gangster has an idea for them on how they might generate some cash flow: take advantage of an opportunity to divert suspicion elsewhere by robbing a mob-operated high stakes poker game, whose manager will be suspected by his bosses to have staged the heist. When mob-enforcer Jackie Cogan (Brad Pitt) is brought in, to bring order back into mob operations, corporate dysfunction and human foibles set in motion a chain of comic, tragic and violent events.

Based on George V.  Higgins' novel Cogan's Trade, originally set in the 1980s, the story has been successfully transposed to 2008. The USA descending into financial crisis makes a poignant backdrop to the main action and palpably affects what the economist John Maynard Keynes once called the “animal spirits” of everyone involved. 

Screenplay and direction are excellent. Andrew Dominik makes skilful use of dialogue and photography to move the story forward in a compelling manner. The excellent ensemble of actors brings the characters and their strong personalities to life. Brad Pitt's performance as the mid level gangster who has to carry out the faceless syndicates decisions stands out. There is excitement and brutal violence, the writing evokes classic films such as Goodfellas, Pulp Fiction and In Bruges. Killing Them Softly is a classic of the genre. Don't miss it.

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