Killing Them Softly: Discussion

Me  I thought Killing Them Softly had more going on than just “it’s every man for himself out there.” I wasn’t that crazy about it, but I do otherwise agree with this person’s take.

Josh  Yeah, it wasn’t too hard to pick up the less-than-subtle undertones with the constant insertion of snippets of political commentary. Surely Dominik didn’t need the hammer to make his point. I was also surprised to read that it was set in New Orleans? I don’t remember picking that up at any point in the story.

Me  I actually didn’t think that Dominik made his point too clumsily because I didn’t feel that I fully understood the purpose of the political stuff. Also, outside of Suebsaeng’s review in Mother Jones, I haven’t found another reviewer who has satisfactorily explained the symbolic or allegorical elements.

When it was over, I felt like I had missed something. Assuming allegory myself, I tried to reason through what the different figures might have represented. Was Driver the corporations? If so, who was the government? It makes sense to me now for Mickey to represent a lack of regulation in the markets. His criminal friends just “let it go” when he dumbly fesses up to his caper. This leads to a “meltdown” in the underworld.

That means that Johnny (“Squirrel”), Frankie (the Bostonian), and Russell (the Aussie) maybe represent the chaos that accompanies laissezfaireism.

I thought initially that the fact that not one person in the movie, to my recollection, speaks with a New Orleans accent might be meaningful somehow. However, I read in an interview that Dominik just meant for the place to be an Anytown, USA. Blech.

I don’t remember if anybody actually says that it’s New Orleans. I had already read as much in Ebert’s review.

So, I do think it makes the movie more interesting if Suebsaeng is right. It just means that Dominik thinks the people responsible for the meltdown should be dealt with more harshly. This makes perfect sense in a country that is also a business. It’s just good business to kill people who transgress seriously enough.

Ultimately, I think the movie has to rest dramatically on the strength of the robbery and Gandolfini’s declining hitman. I didn’t think the Aussie’s musings about his misadventures in bestiality were very amusing. Probably because it recalled a better scene in Pulp Fiction.

Josh  My initial thoughts are that Driver represents Henry Paulson, Ben Bernanke and Lindsay Buckingham (aka Tim Geithner). During the crisis they wanted to maintain an equilibrium and not upend the financial system due to its fragile state. I would then see Ray Liotta’s character as the banks. He is reckless with the investors’/public’s money (card players) to the point of stealing directly from them. The investors know this, but as long as they’re is still the potential to make money in the long-term (compared to the short-term loss of being robbed), who are they to challenge the system?

Did you notice the moment in the conversation between Jackie and Driver when they actually refer to the gamblers as the “public”? I kind of view Brad Pitt’s character as a greek chorus, or something along those lines, with a little more direct influence.

Me  I’m not sure that Driver is a good corollary for those guys. I’m thinking mainly of the fact that Driver was confused about why Trattman had to die. If he were a Paulson-Bernanke-Geithner-level brainiac, I don’t think he’d’ve been so dumb. It seems if Driver were Paulson, then the gambling racket would’ve been “the banks” and, as with Lehman Brothers, he would’ve allowed them to fail. Would Bernanke or Geithner have allowed this? I don’t think so. Paulson seems more like Jackie to me: “don’t expect a bailout every time you fuck up.” Well, Paulson acted on that reasoning with Lehman and ended up knocking over the first of a network of wobbly dominoes.
I’ll have to think about this some more.

One thought on “Killing Them Softly: Discussion”

  1. I know Josh’s birthday is coming up. Could you let him know that I think he’s aging *really* well?

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