Tuesday, February 5, 2013


The following review has graciously been offered to Buddies Forever Movie Club by my mentor and friend Nolan Dalla, noted poker historian and author of One of a Kind: The Rise and Fall of Stuey "The Kid" Ungar. The review originally appeared in Dalla's personal blog, www.nolandalla.com
It took only 75 years for Dustin Hoffman to direct his first movie.
That he chose a film project way outside of Hollywood comprised of an entirely foreign cast (for an American actor and director) comes as a further surprise.
But the biggest shock of all is how his new movie, Quartet works so well. Beautifully filmed, musically enhanced, and topped by stellar performances all around from actors perfectly cast in each of their roles, Hoffman’s long-awaited directorial debut reveals that he picked up some excellent pointers over his last five decades in the movie business from mentors like Mike Nichols, John Schlesinger, Alan J. Pakula, Sydney Pollack, and others who mastered the meticulous craft of cinema from the opposite side of the camera.
Quartet tells the story of a group of retired classically-trained musicians living together in a palatial retirement home in England. All of the seniors were once world-class performers of classical music and opera. Most still play. So, adding it all together we have old people in a retirement home playing classical music. If all this sounds terribly dull and depressing, well think again.
Quartet mainly works because it treats its subjects with great respect and yet also manages to confront issues that elderly people must face about their impending mortality — with absolute credibility. These old people who move around slowly and dress funny aren’t to be pitied. They’re retired, but they still enjoy a zest for living life — which for each of them means continuing to play and perform the music they love.
A number of stories swirl around simultaneously — comprised mostly of personality conflicts and even romance among the cast.  Indeed, this film offers a portrait of all our futures which is both realistic, as well as optimistic. Like a similar movie made last year called The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, every action and word of dialogue is entirely believable.
This movie’s real charms are its subtleties.  The way simple scenes flow together, the natural beauty of the estate, complimented by just the right classical vignette. There are no car crashes, special effects, long senseless monologues, or shocking endings. It’s a slice of real life, and the lives of these characters deserve proper reflection.
Perhaps the most satisfying moment of the film comes after the final scene, during the credits. The added bonus material won’t be revealed here. But be sure and don’t leave the movie theater early, or you’ll miss arguably the most poignant moment of the film.
Unfortunately, it’s my prediction that this movie won’t do particularly well at the box office. Young people, who comprise the majority of modern-day movie goers, aren’t much interested in older actors with British accents or stories about what happens inside a retirement home. And that’s a crying shame because it’s ultimately their loss.
But for more mature movie fans, and particularly those who incessantly complain that Hollywood doesn’t make films the way they used to, here’s a film tailor made for more senior sensibilities. Those who stay home and ignore a film like this film do absolutely nothing to support their own cinematic wants and desires. And no matter how you slice it — that’s the biggest shame of all.

Buddies Forever Movie Club Rating: 70% 

(Note: Dalla ranks his movie on a scale of 0-10 stars. He ranked Quartet 7 out of 10)

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Saturday, February 2, 2013

Gangster Squad

In January of 2012, I had the opportunity to visit Melbourne, Australia. This was shortly after I started this movie blog, and I actually reviewed my third and fourth movies while there—The Descendants and Tailor, Tinker, Soldier, Spy, the former still one of my most highly-ranked Buddies Forever Movie Club films. This January I returned to Melbourne and made it a point to see another movie with Australian Buddy Forever Josh Bell.

It was a tough choice between Gangster Squad and Silver Linings Playbook. I say tough because between Bell’s love of gangsters and playbooks, and my fondness for squads and silver linings, well we just couldn’t seem to make up our minds. Luckily time made the ultimate decision and we saw the later showing of Gangster Squad.

Australia's Josh Bell
Here’s how IMDb describes the film: “Los Angeles, 1949: A secret crew of police officers led by two determined sergeants work together in an effort to take down the ruthless mob king Mickey Cohen who runs the city.”

The film is loosely based upon true events and is essentially the story of how the mob, which has never had a foothold in the city, was kept out of Los Angeles. Of course that story was glorified, embellished and given the Hollywood treatment, but the material still proved captivating. I didn’t have high hopes for Gangster Squad going in, and I left feeling I got what I expected. I’m not saying that it was a great movie, because it wasn't, but it entertained me throughout.

The thing with Gangster Squad, at least for me, was that it would have made a better television series than a movie. Had the story unfolded organically over time and the characters properly developed it could have been awesome. Instead, we got a turbo version where everything was squeezed into a 113-minute timeframe.

As previously mentioned, the story was appealing but ultimately it was rushed. The transitions for scene to scene, no matter how much time had passed or travel was required, was instantaneous. This warped the timeframe and I can honestly say that I have no idea how much time the film covered. Did it take place over a few months or a few years? I’m not sure.

While I liked the story, my favorite part about the film were the performances. The cast was chalk full of A-list actors, and even though their characters weren’t fully developed, they were fun to watch. That applied especially to Sean Penn, who played the boxer-turned-gangster Mickey Cohen. Penn is a great actor with a tremendous range and it was exciting to watch him portray such a power-hungry, immoral and capitalistic criminal. It didn’t turn out to be an iconic role by any means, but it was a solid performance and showed that Penn has what it takes to play a mean bad guy.

On the flip side were protagonists Sgt. John O’Mara and Sgt. Jerry Wooters, played by Josh Brolin and Ryan Gosling respectively. I was under the impression that the film would center around the latter actor, but the filmmakers did a good job balancing him with Brolin. I think both men are good at what they do, and that’s what they were in Gangster Squad—good not great.

The same can be said for the supporting cast, which included Anthony Mackie (who will play The Falcon in Captain America: The Winter Soldier), Robert Patrick, Michael Pena and Giovanni Ribisi. They rounded out the Gangster Squad and each of their characters were interesting, but due to poor development they didn’t really make an emotional connection with the audience.

I will say that I was impressed by both Nick Nolte and Emma Stone. The former had a small part as the chief of police, but he made the most of his time onscreen. Nolte is getting up there in years, which haven’t treated him too kindly, but it’s still fun to watch him do what he does in suitable roles. Regarding Stone, I must admit she’s becoming quite the sex symbol, which surprises me given past roles she’s had. I’ve always imagined her as a good girl, but I’m becoming convinced that just might not be the case. I also think Stone and Gosling had good onscreen chemistry, much like they did in Crazy, Stupid, Love.

I didn’t care too much for Gangster Squad, but then again I didn’t hate it either. It was entertaining, and that’s all I ask for from a movie. Will it win any awards? Certainly not (it’s more on par with Lawless), but if you’re looking for some quick and cheap thrills for a couple hours Gangster Squad should do the trick.

Buddies Forever Movie Club Rating: 58%

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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Zero Dark Thirty

The month of January has been hectic workwise, which is why I haven’t had the chance to review many movies. With that said, I did have one day at home and made it a special points to see Zero Dark Thirty, the new film by Kathryn Bigelow that has been generating a lot of Oscar buzz.

Here’s how Jim Beaver described the film’s premise on IMDb: “Maya is a CIA operative whose first experience is in the interrogation of prisoners following the Al Qaeda attacks against the U.S. on the 11th September 2001. She is a reluctant participant in extreme duress applied to the detainees, but believes that the truth may only be obtained through such tactics. For several years, she is single-minded in her pursuit of leads to uncover the whereabouts of Al Qaeda's leader, Osama Bin Laden. Finally, in 2011, it appears that her work will pay off, and a U.S. Navy SEAL team is sent to kill or capture Bin Laden. But only Maya is confident Bin Laden is where she says he is.”

The film was originally conceived to tell the take of the unsuccessful hunt, but that all changed in 2011 when Bin Laden was killed. A couple of scripts rewrite by Mark Boal, and Bigelow was able to tell the whole take. Now it’s important to remember that this isn’t a documentary, rather a dramatized account pieced together through interviews, research, etc. While it’s based on fact, it’s not historically accurate—at least that’s what acting CIA Director Michael Morell said when he took the unusual step of issuing a statement about the film and contradicting the use of enhanced interrogation techniques (AKA torture). "That impression is false,” Morell said in the statement. “We cannot allow a Hollywood film to cloud our memory." 

As previously mentioned, Zero Dark Thirty has been generating a lot of Oscar buzz and is a critically acclaimed film. For those reasons I was excited and had high expectations, but I must be honest, it didn’t blow me away (I know, a bad pun given the subject matter). It certainly was a good film, but it wasn’t exceptional. There were a lot of things I liked about Zero Dark Thirty, but then again there were some things I didn’t.

Let me start with the things I did, because on the whole the film was satisfying. First and foremost was the ability for Boal and Bigelow to generate so much tension and suspense involving events that stretched out over the course of a decade. In reality, the hunt for Bin Laden was long and tedious, and the film does a good job imparting this without actually encompassing it. What’s more, both managed to bring that suspense to a satisfying climax—the raid on Bin Laden’s compound. While the audience already knows what's going to happen, it was still an intense, and seemingly realistic, account of Bin Laden’s final moments.

I also like the fact that neither Bigelow nor Boal shied away from showing some “enhanced interrogation techniques”. Deny as much as they’d like, these sort of things most certainly happened and it’d have been wrong to gloss over it. Speaking of these scenes, Jason Clarke did an excellent job playing the character Dan, who was responsible for ascertaining vital information. He was calm, cool and collected while doing he job, but you could tell that it was chipping away at his soul. In my opinion his was the most developed character in the film. More on that shortly.

Finally, I love the film’s realism. Even though it was a dramatization, and liberties were taken for entertainment purposes, it still came off as a realistic account—much like Bigelow’s Academy Award winning film, The Hurt Locker, did back in 2008. I highly enjoyed one scene where security procedures were skipped and those who did so were duly punished. For me, it brought the unceasing danger associated with war to life.

Now, let me touch upon a few of the things I felt were lacking. First and foremost were the characters. I already mentioned Clarke did an excellent job, and for the most part I thought the rest of the cast did as well. Jessica Chastain was great as Maya, the CIA protagonist, while Mark DuplassJames GandolfiniJoel Edgerton and Chris Pratt did well in their limited roles (Pratt’s Navy Seal character was the perfect amount of comic relief); however, the problem was they were barely featured and hardly developed.

Another thing I hate is when films underutilize and essentially waste quality talent. That’s what they did with Stephen Dillane, who played a National Security advisor in the film. I was a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it role, which is a shame for the man who ahs tackled big roles such as Stannis Baratheon in Game of Thrones and Thomas Jefferson in the HBO miniseries John Adams.

Don’t get me wrong, I thought Zero Dark Thirty was a very good film, it just wasn’t as great as I was led to believe. It’s nominated for Best Picture, and it could very well win as the competing films don’t hold a distinct advantage. I wouldn’t be disappointed if it won, the same way I wouldn’t be if either Beasts of the Southern WildLife of Pi, or Argo won (I haven’t seen AmourLes Miserables and Silver Linings Playbook and don’t believe Django Unchained nor Lincoln deserve the honors); however, I do feel Bigelow, who got snubbed for Best Director, deserved a nomination as she’s a tremendous director, a fact she proved once again with Zero Dark Thirty.

Buddies Forever Movie Club Rating: 80%

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Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Django Unchained

I’m a big fan of Quentin Tarantino. My fandom began in 1992 with his first feature film, Reservoir Dogs, and solidified two years later with the now classic Pulp Fiction. I was also a fan of 1997’s underrated Jackie Brown, but I really fell in love with Kill Bill—especially Volume 2 (the performances by Michael Madsen and David Carradine are among my favorite in modern cinema). Needless to say, I was excited for Tarantino’s newest project in three years—Django Unchained.

Not only was I excited because it was a Tarantino movie, I was also anxious to see Christoph Waltz back in action. If you recall, he played the vile Col. Hans Landa in 2009’s Inglourious Basterds, which earned the 56-year-old German actor a well-deserved Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. It was another great casting decision by Tarantino and instantly vaulted Waltz into superstardom. Furthermore, A-listers Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington and Samuel L. Jackson joined him in the film.

Before I get too far ahead of myself, here’s a description of the spaghetti western as described by BenLobel on IMDb: “Former dentist, Dr. King Schultz, buys the freedom of a slave, Django, and trains him with the intent to make him his deputy bounty hunter. Instead, he is led to the site of Django's wife who is under the hands of Calvin Candie, a ruthless plantation owner.”

The aforementioned Waltz played Dr. King Schultz, and once again he did an amazing job. I don’t know what it is, but Waltz manages to captivate every second he’s on screen. This was especially true as a villain in Inglourious Basterds, but Django Unchained also proved he made a good protagonist (with his charm, wit and intelligence, Dr. King Schultz was basically a good version of Hans Landa).

Playing his counterpart and the title character was Foxx, who accepted after Will Smith, who Tarantino had in mind when writing the film, declined the role. I have no reservations saying I’m a bigger fan of Smith than Foxx, but to be honest the latter did a great job. I tend to think Foxx hogs the spotlight, but that wasn't the case at all here. That allowed the other characters to shine through and strengthen the film as a whole. Interestingly, Foxx used his own horse, Cheetah, in the film, which I heard (him being as experienced with riding) helped him earn the role.

While both Foxx and Waltz made a fun duo, they didn’t strike me as iconic, which many past Tarantino characters have. If there was one in this film, it would have went to either DiCaprio, who was originally going to play the aforementioned Landa in Inglourious Basterds (Tarantino decided a native German speaker was best), as plantation owner Calvin Candie or his head slave, Stephen, played by Jackson. This was the first time in nearly 15 years the former wasn’t billed as the headliner in a movie, and it was refreshing to see the talented actor play a menacing villain in a supporting role. It was a nontraditional part for the star, and he did an amazing job. He was sick, demented and a gamesman, but pulled it all off under the guise of charm, tradition and etiquette. He was friendly scary if that makes sense.

Carsen Nachreiner was the buddy for Django Unchained.
As far as Jackson was concerned, he was scandalous and treacherous as Candie’s head slave, who was the real slave driver on the plantation. It was a prime example of the dog of the king being the king of the dogs. Jackson, who has appeared in five Tarantino films, really owned the role as the cantankerous mastermind and he was a pleasure to watch.

Rounding out the performances, I was glad to see the talented Walter Groggins in the film as Ace Woody, which was originally Kevin Costner’s role until he had to drop out, but Groggins was underused in my opinion (interestingly, others previously linked to a role that didn’t pan out included Lady Gaga, Kurt Russell, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Sacha Baron Cohen).

Regarding the story, it was a fairly typical western theme; in fact, it was inspired by the 1960s spaghetti western Django starring Franco Nero (Tarantino gave Nero a cameo as a bar patron—the one that says, “I know,” when Django explains, "The 'D' is silent"). Tarantino gave his own spin on it, and it flowed relatively well. By that I mean the plot naturally progressed while the characters were developed. Meanwhile, tangents were kept to a minimum and the underlying love story/fairy tale aspect was kept in check.

I don’t really have any qualms with the film, other than the fact that it went on a little long; in fact, there was one logical stopping point where I assumed the movie would end. It opted to go a bit further, which was fine, but the missed opportunity to end it smoothly did not go unnoticed. Other than that, I think the film was slightly pigeonholed by the various delays, script changes and actor turnover, which took a bit of shine off the film as a whole.

Django Unchained wasn’t Tarantino’s best, but it fit nicely into his portfolio. The characters, while not iconic, were well developed and entertaining, which was the strength of the film—at least for me. Of course there was the trademark Tarantino over-the-top blood and gore, which gave a distinct feel to what could have been a mundane western, or “southern” as Tarantino called it since it’s set in America’s south. If you like Tarantino, you should like Django Unchained. I left satisfied and feel it's worth the price of admission.

Buddies Forever Movie Club Rating: 84%

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Monday, December 24, 2012

Jack Reacher

After the disastrous John Carter earlier this year, I’m wary of films that have a man’s first and last names as its title. That being the case, I allowed myself to become hopeful regarding Jack Reacher, the new film by Christopher McQuarrie (director of The Way of the Gun) starring Tom Cruise and based off the book One Shot by Lee Child (who had a cameo in the film as the policeman behind the desk when giving Cruise back his belongings). Unfortunately that hope was misplace because, once again, a man-named film left me both unsatisfied and disappointed.

Before I jump into the things I like and didn’t like about the film, you might want to know what it’s about. Here’s how IMDb describes it: “In an innocent heartland city, five are shot dead by an expert sniper. The police quickly identify and arrest the culprit, and build a slam-dunk case. But the accused man claims he's innocent and says ‘Get Jack Reacher.’ Reacher himself sees the news report and turns up in the city. The defense is immensely relieved, but Reacher has come to bury the guy. Shocked at the accused's request, Reacher sets out to confirm for himself the absolute certainty of the man's guilt, but comes up with more than he bargained for.”

The trailer for the film, which can be viewed below, made it seem as this might raise the bar for the Action/Crime/Thriller genre, as I’ve heard Child’s books have in literature; however, what I found was a rather run-of-the-mill action movie. To be honest, saying it was run-of-the-mill may be too kind.

The story itself started out strong by depicting a heinous crime, and from there the plot thickened with the slow revelation of a conspiracy; however, before too long the film began to stall. Suddenly Reacher, who began to come off as an “Average Joe” superhero as opposed to a former military policeman, was pursuing low-life criminals while trying to save a woman stuck in a cycle of abuse.  

My old man was the buddy for this movie.

Cruise was decent as the title character, but I didn’t really feel there was a lot of development regarding Reacher. He’s initially shrouded in mystery, and the little we do find out about him becomes so far reaching that it’s unbelievable. For instance, he’s suddenly an expert marksman when he just so happens to be working a case involving a sniper. Likewise, he just so happens to come across an ex-marine, played by Robert Duvall, who is willing to help him illegally take on a criminal enterprise just because he saw him shoot years earlier? C’mon man!

Don’t get me wrong, things like that can be found in dozens of action movies, but that’s exactly my point, Jack Reacher isn’t anything special. Everything it had to offer I’ve seen before, and to be honest, if it didn’t have the big-name actors that it did, it would have been terrible. Luckily Cruise, Duvall, Richard Jenkins, Rosamund Pike and David Oyelowo did a good enough job to keep me watching. I wish I could say the same for the main villain, played by Werner Herzog, but he was about the least intimidating and fear-striking bad guy I’ve seen in years.

Jack Reacher barely kept me entertained, and at times I felt like it was insulting my intelligence—definitely not what I want to see after spending $10 on a ticket.  It’s definitely not worth seeing in theaters, and I wouldn’t recommend it on DVD either, unless of course you’re having a boring night and have seen everything else. Save your money.

Buddies Forever Movie Club Rating: 45%

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Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

After I saw the Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring way back in 2001, I rushed out and read all J.R.R. Tolkien’s books, starting with The Hobbit. I continued to enjoy the LOTR trilogy over the next two years, and I must admit, I am excited for The Hobbit Trilogy a decade later. Granted, three movies may be too much and a ploy by the Peter Jackson moneymaking machine, but I really don’t mind—it’s more to enjoy.

Here is a lengthy description of the first in the new trilogy, The Hobbit: An UnexpectedJourney, courtesy of IMDb: “Bilbo Baggins is swept into a quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor from the fearsome dragon Smaug. Approached out of the blue by the wizard Gandalf the Grey, Bilbo finds himself joining a company of thirteen dwarves led by the legendary warrior, Thorin Oakenshield. Their journey will take them into the Wild; through treacherous lands swarming with Goblins and Orcs, deadly Wargs and Giant Spiders, Shapeshifters and Sorcerers. Although their goal lies to the East and the wastelands of the Lonely Mountain first they must escape the goblin tunnels, where Bilbo meets the creature that will change his life forever ... Gollum.”

Let me start by saying how refreshing it was to see some familiar face in The Hobbit. Ian McKellan’s portrayal of Gandalf in LOTR is the stuff of legends, and he picked up right where he left off—which is amazing considering he's a decade older. Likewise, it was nice seeing Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving and Christopher Lee reprise their roles, albeit limitedly, as Galadriel, Elrond, and Saruman respectively; meanwhile, seeing Ian Holm and Elijah Wood in cameo spots gave the film true LOTR authenticity.

In addition to the familiar faces, there were a bevy of new characters introduced in the film including the dragon Smaug, Martin Freeman as a young Bilbo Baggins, and a fellowship of dwarves led by Thorin Oakenshield, played brilliantly by Richard Armitage. The dragon really won’t become a factor until The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug in December 2013, which brings me to Freeman.

I’ll admit I didn’t know much about Freeman prior to his casting other than the fact that he was on the BBC’s The Office. Even so, I wasn’t worried as all of Jackson’s LOTR casting choices have been spot on. Freeman not only handled the role of Bilbo admirably, he knocked it out of the park. He perfectly balanced the steadfast contentment and cautious wanderlust that characterizes Bilbo, and he also did a great job building the character’s confidence. Watching Bilbo’s progression turned out to be an unexpected journey of its own, one the culminated in a memorable interaction with Gollum, once again brilliantly played by Andy Serkis (Can someone please get that guy an Oscar?).

Ben Robertson & Dan Almerli were the buddies for this movie.

As far as the dwarves were concerned, they were entertaining, though a bit hard to keep track of. Thorin was properly fleshed out and is the Strider/Aragorn of the film, but the others were hard to distinguish from one another. With that said, there are still two full-length films to go, so I’m sure that problem will resolve itself.

In regards to the story, I loved how the focus was on the dwarves’ journey but there were also side stories that feed into the LOTR lore. For instance, the necromancer living in the abandoned castle—that’s Sauron; likewise, Radagast the Brown, played by Sylvester McCoy, provided a sneak peek into the wider world of wizards. The story had me entertained throughout, so in that regard it did it’s job well.

While I liked The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey as a whole, I had one major qualm—some of the visuals were overwhelming. At times there was so much going on that it was near impossible to process it all. This usually occurred in the action-packed, CGI-generated scenes, like when the dwarves were running through the Orc kingdom. Granted, I didn’t see it in 3D (I wish I had but my friend’s eyes don’t allow him to see 3D movies), so it’s possible such scenes look better in the third dimension.

For me, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was a great installment in the LOTR saga. It uses the same formula, a wise decision as it’s a proven success, and the consistency of the actors and filmmakers makes the film authentic—by that I mean it doesn’t feel as if it was thrown together to make a quick buck; instead, it’s been made in such a way as to do justice to both the source material and the fans. It’s a little more whimsical than its predecessors, but keep in mind that’s the way the book wass written (for children as opposed to young adults). To put it simply... if you liked LOTR, you should like The Hobbit—I know I did.

Buddies Forever Movie Club Rating: 90%

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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Killing Them Softly

I recently had the opportunity to see Killing Them Softly, the new film by Andrew Dominik, who last directed 2007’s superb film The Assassination of Jesse Jamesby the Coward Robert Ford, which also starred Brad Pitt. I’ve always enjoyed dark crime films, and this film peeked my curiosity the first time I saw the trailer (which you can view at the bottom of this review).

In case you’ve never heard of Killing Them Softly, which is based on George V Higgins’ 1974 crime novel Cogan’s Trade, here’s how IMDb describes the movie: “Jackie Cogan is an enforcer hired to restore order after three dumb guys rob a Mob protected card game, causing the local criminal economy to collapse.”

The crime/drama film was reminiscent of last year’s Drive, starring Ryan Gosling, in that it’s a dark, realistic film noir. The story is simple and familiar, but Dominik puts his own spin on things. Instead of taking the usual shoot-em-up route, Dominik pulls back and lets realism, as well as the characters, drive the film by taking viewers into the underworld (as opposed to bringing the villains into the real world). It’s there they get a pessimistic and dark-comedy look at the different tiers of felonious players.

Portraying these players was an impressive cast of actors (there were no actresses other than a bit prostitute part). They included Pitt as the practical and down-to-earth Jackie, who took a systematic and badass approach to cleaning up the mess left behind from the robbery. Pitt’s character is a crude businessman, and this, as well as the other’s ineptitude, is brought to life by the backdrop of the 2008 financial crisis. Basically the little mob niche was symbolic of the country as a whole, and Jackie wasn’t going to be caught in the crosshairs.

Carsen Nachreiner was the buddy for this film.

Scoot McNairy, who played one of the aforementioned “three dumb guys” who robbed the poker game, also did a great job as Frankie the junkie. Despite being the catalyst of the situation, he was also the protagonist of the film. You find yourself pulling for his survival despite the drug addiction and rashness, but at the same time you know he deserves what’s coming.

The film was bolstered by fine performances from Richard JenkinsJames Gandolfini and Ray Liotta. The seemingly straight-laced Jenkins plays “Driver”, the middleman between the mob and Jackie. He’s an awful lot like Jackie except that he’s held back by conventions. Likewise, Gandolfini plays fellow hit man Mickey, though he’s not calm, cool and collected like Jackie. Instead, he’s past his prime, an alcoholic and barely holding on by a strong. It’s a sad state in reality, but in this film Gandolfini owns it and captivates every second he’s on the screen. Finally there was Liotta, who played Markie Trattman, the low-level mob man who ran the poker game. I’m used to seeing Liotta play badass characters, but in this film his character was rather meek and it was fun watching him play a pussy.

Killing Them Softly was certainly different. When I left the theater, I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. Part of me hated it, but another part of me loved it. After processing things for a while, I came to the conclusion that it was actually a rather decent film, not only because so few movies leave me feeling so conflicted (which I think is a testament to their influence), but also because it was unique. It’s ironic that such a dark and depressing movie can be so refreshing.

Buddies Forever Movie Club Rating: 70%

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