Matthew Lickona 4:30 p.m., May 20
Killing Them Softly
In order to hammer home its point about American morality with regard to money as manifested on the macro level by the 2008 financial crisis and on the micro level by the machinations of some truly unpleasant urban lowlifes, Killing Them Softly asks the audience to believe that the patrons of an illegal high-stakes card game would ever select, by way of background ambiance, a televised speech from President Bush. Also, that a couple of thugs sent to beat a man half to death would warm up for the occasion by listening to a speech on Federal intervention in the marketplace. Also, also, also. The audience — if it is hasn't been lulled to sleep by the endless, gentle lapping of dialogue and a storyline so flat it requires jolts of electric, effects-heavy violence to keep it moving — will very likely call bullshit. A similar charge may be made against the film's efforts to obtain our sympathies for these scumbags - like us, they have money troubles, relationship troubles, work troubles, and all the rest of it — while at the same time insisting that they operate just like the one-percenters who did to this country what Mickey from New York (James Gandolfini) did to his hundred-dollar whore. In other news, Brad Pitt makes the most of his handsome, seedy authority, right up until the point where he decides to start speechifying about Thomas Jefferson. 2012.