Killing Them Softly was apparently made by people who had seen Pulp Fiction too many times and so filled their screen time with irrelevant chatter such as Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta maundered on about to such remarkable effect in Pulp Fiction. But what was novel and seemed realistic in 1994 has long been a semi-cliché in movies, and all it accomplishes in Killing Them Softly is to slow down the pace to near motionlessness and emphasize the dullness of the characters. Ditto the continual treatment of crime as just another business operation, which has been a cliché for even longer. Killing Them Softly is reportedly only an hour and 37 minutes long; it seems longer.
Brad Pitt is brought in from out of town to do a fairly important series of killings, but I wouldn’t hire him to mow my lawn. What he does personally he does well enough, although in such a way that the need for associates is not clear, and the associates he hires do the rest of the job are absolute human rubbish, not become they have no conception of normal morality – nobody in the movie has anything like that – but because they are stupid even when not almost helplessly high and lack the backbone to carry out their assignments anyway. There’s nobody to care about, and the plot is not interesting enough to make up for the lack.
What tingle of interest Killing Them Softly offers is in the complete unconcern about justice and complete concern with public perception of what is going on; it isn’t worthwhile to waste time identifying the guilty when the desired effect will be better reached by killing the ones the public suspects. And I’m not going to talk about the use of Barack Obama and the campaign of 2008.