Robert Bush 6:31 p.m., May 18
I liked it more when we called it Blogfight!
In response to Mr. Lickona's gauntlet-chucking.
Special effects have become so much a part of the fabric of contemporary cinema that I began accepting them as a theorem years ago. I don't cotton to Peckinpah's balletic brand of slow-motion violence, so it's not likely that you'll get much of an argument from me on this point. There was a little bit of the "cool factor" -- and an admiration for cinematographer Greig Fraser's burnished frames -- at work while watching Liotta get air conditioned, but overall it didn't really add or subtract anything from the film.
As you must have sensed from the constant attention I heap upon The Three Stooges, sound effects are aural sex to a guy like me. If Marty can enhance Jake's punches with elephants trumpeting in Raging Bull, why not have the blows to Liotta's gut sound "like a bag of intestines stuffed with marbles being thrown under a tank tread?"
Gangster films are my Achilles' heel, but I missed the press screening (silly me opted for Les Mis instead) and didn't catch up with KTS until after having heard your thoughts, along with those of many other naysayers. Factor in that Dominick's last film, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, left me comatose, and you'll understand why I went in half-expecting to hate it. Brad Pitt's reference to Andrew Jackson is there for the doofs in the back row who hadn't been paying attention. It is a bit out of character but very much in place with the rest of the movie.
Pitt is a die-hard liberal and, fearing this might be designed to play to an audience of converts, I had to wince when the first sound that opened the film was Barack Obama's voice. The discomfort didn't last long. Within seconds, the voice of the leader of the greatest country in the free world begins to sound like it had been edited in a Cuisinart. His speech is ripped to shreds by jump cuts making it impossible for the audience to view it as an authoritative voice of reason. The same lack of dignity is afforded both political parties. This is about a country run by corporations, not duly appointed politicians, and I applaud any film that has the guts to put the idea out there, even if its delivery is a bit bulky.
I think that our disagreement is really over stylization. The desolate New Orleans locations that open the picture help to set the tone for the surreal American wasteland that follows. Obama's shredded speech is chased by a two-character dialog scene that could just as well been filmed in the war-torn Baghlan Province.
You somewhat rightfully accuse Dominick of "ramming the underworld-overworld parallels down our throats at every turn, in ways that aren't even close to believable." With three viewings under my belt, it's hard to believe that Dominick isn't purposely trying create a modern day fantasy universe where every TV set in every bar and goomba card room in the land is tuned to a presidential debate. If he really wanted to hammer his point to death, there would have been wall-to-wall Depression era music playing in the background instead of just a couple of well-placed ditties.
You complain that "it's crooks all the way to the top" as if that's a bad thing. How many more movies about Wall Street types, seated in boardrooms and bemoaning the meltdown of America's corporate infrastructure, can you bear? (Well, at least one: Marty's upcoming The Wolf of Wall Street, scheduled to open in Sweden on August 30, 2013.) This put a fresh spin on a tired plot line.
I'm a sucker for dialog exchanges that take place in the front seat. Listening to Pitt and Richard Jenkins' murderous behind-closed-car-doors exchanges is what I imagine it might sound like when two corporate rivals square off. Replacing brokers with bullies may not seem like too far of a stretch, but the shift in heavies gave the film an added boost.
Having never seen an episode of the show, your talk of The Sopranos and Gandolfini's subsequent typecasting flew past me. The Gandolfinin character is the biggest bone I have to pick with the film. Pitt imports him to do a hit and the whored-out rummy can't pull it together to do the job. Perhaps in Pitt's eyes, Gandolfini represents a look into the future. More likely than not, the character's function to tell us more about Pitt in relation to an equal, not a suit or the slimy fucks he's hired to whack.
Lastly, I based my comment about many being quick to dismiss the film on the fact that it was the first film ever to receive an "F" grade from moviegoers polled by CinemaScore.