Fri. December 7
The Assassination of Political Allegory by the Coward Brad Pitt
Extended political metaphors rarely go over well in literature or film. Why? Because it is a very difficult thing to pull off without sounding and/or looking like a babbling blowhard.
However, if “babbling brooks of blowhardiness” are your thing, then boy, do I have the movie for you!
Actor-turned-producer-turned-political activist in actor’s clothing Brad Pitt–from such classics as The Mexican and Johnny Suede–stars in the gritty new crime drama Killing Them Softly that opened in theaters nationwide this past weekend.
The film boasts an impressive roster of talented costars, such as James Gandolfini and Ray Liotta, who provide sturdy performances in what might have been a really interesting story, had someone good at telling really interesting stories written and directed it. Also of note, Barack Obama super-fan Harvey Weinstein coproduced the project. (This will become much more relevant in the next few paragraphs.)
The basic plot goes like this: a low-level crime boss in New Orleans hires two down-on-their-luck ex-cons to heist a high-stakes illegal poker game. The robbery takes place and suddenly there is a “crisis of confidence” among degenerate criminals who no longer feel safe “investing” their money in such a volatile economic climate. Pitt’s character is brought in to restore confidence by murdering those human beings associated in any way with the theft.
Along the way the audience is treated to discussions of bestiality, multiple executions, Ray Liotta puking his guts out in the rain, visits from hookers with hearts of coal (better be clean coal!), and a lot of exterior shots of a depressing landscape in southern Louisiana.
Oh, and one more thing: every five minutes or so the director takes his brand of very liberal politics and bludgeons you over the head with it.
The story is set in the fall of 2008 in a city that has zero political overtones when used as the backdrop to a politically motivated film: New Orleans. In any scene in which criminal activity takes place, the voices (and images) of then-president George W. Bush and various members of his administration can be heard (or seen) discussing the financial collapse of that year. Ray Liotta’s character is Mark Trapman–sounds a little like TARPman–a guy who had stolen from other criminals in the past, was given a bailout and left alone when he shouldn’t have been, and now that other thugs are stealing from those same criminals he is required to pay for past sins.
The final two minutes of the movie are consumed by a lengthy Brad Pitt monologue–whose character is a “venture capitalist” hit-man for the mob–about how awful this nation was, is, and always will be.
America is not a country, but one giant corporation. Thomas Jefferson wrote “that stuff about equality” so that he and his rich buddies could bed their slaves and count their Yankee dollars in peace. The images of Barack Obama and cheering supporters on election night ’08, which Pitt and another character are watching on a television screen together in a bar, are rubbish and meaningless. We’re all on our own and we all just want to get paid.
I know director Andrew Dominik (The Assassination of Jesse James) believed he was being clever with the “won’t this be funny that known-liberal Brad Pitt will be saying all this pessimistic stuff about America while we play clips of his boy Obama in the background to juxtapose where individualism and capitalism led his cynical character, but where The One might lead us if we just relented and embraced his progressive ways” shtick, but he was horribly wrong.
The whole film–to say nothing of this ending scene in particular–is a travesty and a disgusting, depressing one at that. Don’t go see this. Read a book. Hug your kids. Heck, even hug a tree.
I generally enjoy Pitt’s movies. He’s been in some absolute classics (like Legends of the Fall and Fight Club). And his Plan B production company has brought a few gems to life (like Moneyball and The Departed) in recent years. But Killing Them Softly is a disaster. Not because it’s liberal propaganda, but because it’s poorly executed liberal propaganda. We’ve come to expect a left-leaning slant to most things emanating from Hollywood, but we still expect an actual effort to be made in couching the biases of the filmmaker in at least the pretense of story-telling and entertainment.
Shame on Brad.