I had heard nothing about this movie, but its cast and topic (I'm a sucker for mob/organized crime movies) were intriguing enough that I gave it a shot. The movie begins with the audio of Obama speaking at the 2004 DNC, I believe, where he first used the not red states, not blue states, but United States of America line. The scene, however, is that of two amateur criminals trying to win the job of knocking off a poker game. They do both successfully.
It is 2008 and other audio from Bush and Obama is played throughout the movie. One Bush speech is about the severity of the economic recession. Another speech is an apology of sorts about the necessary economic bailout. All of the clips work to establish the meme of the time, that people are desperate, poor, and willing to do anything for some cash. The unity and freedom that both Bush and Obama speak about are contrasted with the harsh reality on the ground of these seedy neighborhoods, where every man is on his own, where no spirit of community bonds people together, and where money and loyalty is the only currency.
Brad Pitt's character, Jackie Cogan, is called in to do clean up (translation: kill anyone suspected of being responsible for the poker game disruption). He uses his usual crew and brings in a hit man, played by James Gandolfini. Things go pretty smoothly for Cogan until the last scene of the movie, when he is stiffed by the man responsible for paying him. The two men are in a bar and Obama is on the TV. What Obama says sparks a discussion and then a closing speech from Cogan, the kind of dialogue that only seems natural in a mob movie, and when Killing Them Softly is at its most thought-provoking:
Obama (on TV): ...To reclaim the American dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth, that, out of many, we are one...
Driver (speaking to Cogan): You hear that line? Line's for you.
Cogan: Don't make me laugh. One people. It's a myth created by Thomas Jefferson.
Driver: Oh, so now you're going to have a go at Jefferson, huh?
Cogan: My friend, Thomas Jefferson is an American saint because he wrote the words 'All men are created equal,' words he clearly didn't believe since he allowed his own children to live in slavery. He's a rich white snob who's sick of paying taxes to the Brits. So, yeah, he writes some lovely words and aroused the rabble and they went and died for those words while he sat back and drank his wine and fucked his slave girl. This guy wants to tell me we're living in a community? Don't make me laugh. I'm living in America, and in America you're on your own. America's not a country. It's just a business. Now fucking pay me.Bottom Line: Besides this last scene and a couple others, Killing Them Softly is not worth the investment. I have a love for mob movies, but I also have a high tolerance for them and on a few occasions I almost turned this one off. There's certainly better out there, but as far as a closing speech goes, Cogan's was one of the most interesting I've heard/seen in a mob movie.
Rated R for f-bombs dropped in nearly every sentence, head shots, drug use, and a typical above-the-law attitude.