Rapid Reviews – Killing Them Softly [DVD]

I remember a couple of years ago when I sat down to watch ‘The Assassination Of Jesse James…” for the first time and being completely knocked back by it. Andrew Dominik blew me away with both his directing and writing and it proved to be a very good film. Late last year Dominik presented us with his new film ‘Killing Them Softly’ and it left a similar impact on me.

It’s shorter than ‘Jesse James’ by over an hour which is a good thing because it moves at a slightly faster pace which suits the darker nature of the film. Dominik managed to draw me into a slightly different world to what we know and tell quite a simple story of what greed and desperation can do to humans. The plot is set in a criminal run city where mobsters have a lot of money whilst others live in poverty. When a mobster poker game is robbed a hired gun is brought in to clean up the mess caused to the economy. The story and screenplay are written very well and managed to keep me interested throughout.

In terms of acting the cast is superb, with Brad Pitt taking the main role of a killer who is hired to restore order to the criminal economy. His performance is very good showing a character with different layers and quite sharp personality with a clever mind. Scoot McNairy and Ben Mendelson work perfectly together as the helpless duo that rob the poker game. There are also very strong supporting performances from Ray Liotta and James Gandolfini, so altogether it is a very sound cast.

For such a short film there were a lot of themes based around social inequality and what happens when people are left to the freedom of their own devices in a broken economy, also themes based on paying for your actions and justice taking its place. But what stood out for me was the themes linked to Brad Pitt’s character as the hired gun. He stood out for me because he was the man who was very much in control and could either represent salvation or damnation so it was fascinating to see how the story is influenced once he is introduced. The social inequality side was very interesting because you could see just how much is influenced the characters and their actions.

Overall I would give it three and a half stars, it works very well as a drama with some action scenes that are very well shot. It’s not perfect but Dominik has once again proved that he can shoot a gritty film that has a tight script. This was more concise than ‘Jesse James’ and was of a completely different nature, but if I’m honest that didn’t really bother me because I really enjoyed it. It’s not as good as ‘Jesse James’, which was a masterpiece, but I would still recommend it to anybody who wants to watch a good film.

Rapid Reviews – Cloud Atlas [DVD]

After buying the dvd of the film weeks ago I was heavily distracted by quite a few things before finding myself utterly bored tonight. The time had come for me to face this 165 minute film that I knew very little about. I started to watch it with an open mind, ready to be enticed in to what appeared to be quite a diverse universe for a film. I ended the film with my mind in a slightly different place. A more cynical place to be precise.

If I had to sum this film up in one sentence I think i would have to quote the good doctor Mark Kermode when he reviewed a film previously “it is really quite remarkably unremarkable”, which is exactly how I felt after watching the film. You have the source material in the form of a novel that is supposedly ‘unfilmable’ so there is quite a lot of material to use, with a lot of characters and as far as I’m aware six different stories that interweave. This doesn’t make it any more interesting and certainly doesn’t make it any more clever, and with a star studded cast it just left me feeling that after 165 minutes even they had had enough. The look in Tom Hanks’ eyes was similar to that of a postman on their duty in the winter snow simply saying over and over ‘we’re getting paid for this’.

The story bounces between the past, present and future with different stories that link together. Some link nicely and others you have to think about, which I really wasn’t willing to do because it would involve engaging myself in such a film. The characters are meant to be strong and have some form of moral and deep message behind them but to be honest it was more like a game of Guess Who for me because I was trying to spot which actor it was playing the character on screen. I’m sure other people will have found deeper meanings behind the characters and truly explored their depths, but personally I didn’t feel immersed enough to give it much thought.

The best character for me was that of Jim Broadbent in the modern day section of the story, he provided me with some entertainment through sheer good acting and sharp delivery of witty lines. As for other actors it wasn’t really a film to show off any true ability. Tom Hanks is capable of so much better as we have already seen, Ben Whishaw is still relatively young so this may end up as a film he tries not to think about once he’s older, Jim Broadbent as previously mentioned is very good, and Hugh Grant just feels like the last man on the end of a conga line at a wedding; clinging on for dear life and hoping not to go crashing in to the buffet table.

The special effects are good, but to be honest so are the effects for most sci fi bashes nowadays so it wasn’t anything bigger than your typical sci fi film. It’s just become common courtesy to put on a big flashy show if you’re going to make a sci fi film in today’s world and the same splattering of shiny technicolour whimsy that is used frequently in modern cinema was strongly present in this film. It was a sign of how unengaged I was with the film that I began questioning the designs to some of the futuristic technology and indeed the interior of some of the rooms. Some sequences look good but they all reek of other films, with the older parts looking like ‘Pirates Of The Caribbean’ and the futuristic sections looking like a mash up of ‘Blade Runner’ and ‘Irobot’ amongst others, so it was quite a cliched glimpse in to the future.

All in all I would give it two stars out of five. I really wanted the film to be good and genuinely watched it with an optimistic mind, but after nearly three hours of a film that doesn’t really find itself or get started into something bigger, I just felt quite bored. I agree with most reviews, the film’s heart is definitely in the right place and it was a good attempt at filming such a difficult book, but in the end it wasn’t as good as I hoped it would be. I’m not sure if I will watch it again, because to be honest I don’t have that urge that wants to watch it again.