Killing Them Softly is the new film by New Zealand-born, Australian director, Andrew Dominik. It stars Brad Pitt who plays Jackie, a smooth hit man who oversees the killing of a trio of small-time mobsters who have robbed an illegal poker game. One of the targets, a dog thief and wannabe heroin dealer, is played by Australian Actor, Ben Mendelsohn. The film has variously been hailed as “menacing”, ” casually pessimistic” , “smart, nasty and gripping”.
Rachel Ward and her husband, Bryan Brown went to see it. Read on:
Andrew Dominik seems like a nice guy.
Despite the absence of females, I’m a huge fan of his films Chopper and The Assassination of Jesse James. He’s almost as handsome as Brad Pitt who, he admits, he is close to. Other cool guys flock to him. Nick Cave composes his music, Luke Davis writes a review of his new film, as if it’s a hit of pure gold in his veins.
Ben Mendelsohn, a notoriously reticent interviewee, suddenly finds his voice when it comes to lauding Dominik. He gets invited to Cannes and to banter with demi-god Brad in press conferences.
The word ‘genius’ gets used around Dominik. So Killing Them Softly is not a film I’m going to miss.
I can always tell when my hubby isn’t enjoying or is bored by a movie. He doesn’t toss and turn and throw his Malteesers around, he goes quiet, so quiet sometimes I think he’s asleep (which he often is) and, after a good nap, he’ll wake pleasantly rested and hungry for his pan fried barramundi.
Last Friday night he went quiet.
Steely quiet, which means he’s battening down the hatches. I can almost feel the guns of defence sliding into place. They’ll be no sleeping through this one. He’s alert to every vile invective, every false character, every tired genre gimmick, every slick advertising ploy masquerading as art.
We’ve come out with friends and I can only image the guns blazing at dinner and the blood on the tablecloth if there are differing opinions amongst us.
I am merely bored by yet another tedious gangster movie that thinks it has something new to say that we didn’t get in the first five minutes, (yes the irony of Obama’s messages of HOPE to his desensitised, alienated, “couldn’t give a fuck” countrymen. Got it.) and loathing the characters and wondering in how many films Brad can wear long side levers and chew on matchsticks before the game is up.
Nothing worth spoiling the pan-fried barramundi for.
Surprisingly, Andrew Dominik’s Killing Them Softly has gone deeper with Bryan.
He gets up quietly. There’s no bluster, no head shaking, no proffered opinions as we leave the cinema. He walks the pavement quickly, his head down, his mouth buttoned. Like a man ashamed.
And that, as it unravels over a subdued dinner, is what he is. Ashamed and saddened by the way men speak of women.
“I would hate”, he said with uncommon anguish, “for my son (19yrs old) to have to sit through that movie with his girlfriend and think that is the way men speak and think about women.”
Of course Dominik will protest that that is his “art”, to show how men – base, desensitised, traumatised, uneducated, drug and drink addled men – speak and think of women.
As a filmmaker myself, I have and continue to wrestle with the fine line between truth and exploitation, common good and bad.
As artists we often throw light on the weak and corrupt in order to expose humanity’s errant moral compass but, in this case, I question what is served here other than to normalise the kind of horrible, vindictive misogynistic language and thought that permeates this movie.
I, and, judging by some of the reviews I’ve read by female reviewers, are so used to reading and hearing about ourselves as if we’re “cunts” first and foremost with hair – and a beating heart somewhere in the background, that we barely notice or object to it when we hear it.
But this is a mainstream Hollywood movie, quality-sanctioned by Cannes film festival branding. Brad Pitt is in it and presumably endorses it.
Andrew Dominik – poster boy for hip and cool – either dreamt up or transposed from the book on which it based, the character’s dialogue. They may distance themselves through the veil of “art”, but they are all tainted.
Tainted because, yet again, nastiness towards women has been normalised and, worse, glamourised.
Thank God, as my husband shows, there are millions of men like him who shut down in shame when they hear other men speaking of women this way, and we girls can not allow ourselves to become inured to these vile displays of word and thought.
As Andrew Dominik and his film show, cheapness masquerading as romance lurks in very deceptive and attractive packages.
I look forward to the filmmaker Andrew Dominik can be.
*In her former life as an actress, Rachel Ward was the recipient of several international drama awards and nominations, which includes two Golden Globe nods. She is probably most known for her portrayal of Meggie Cleary in one of the most successful mini-series of all time, The Thorn Birds.
Today, Rachel focuses her experience and knowledge of film making into writing and directing. In 2008, Rachel adapted and directed Beautiful Kate, a novel by American author Newton Thornburg which starred Ben Mendleson, Rachel Griffith and Bryan Brown. Beautiful Kate was nominated for 10 AFI Awards and was invited to screen at both the Sydney and Toronto Film Festivals.
In 2009 Rachel directed three episodes of My Place, a TV series produced by Penny Chapman and in 2010 she directed two episodes of Rake, an ABC mini-series starring Richard Roxburgh.
In 2011 she directed several episodes of another Penny Chapman Television project ‘ The Straits’ which aired early in 2012 on the ABC.
Rachel is patron of the YWCA and has helped raise more tahn $5 million for various family support services and Arts development programmes.
Visit her official website here.