After a title change, a few delays and a release elsewhere in the world, Andrew Dominik‘s highly-anticipated crime drama Killing Them Softly will be getting an impressive wide stateside bow this weekend. And we have got a few films to brush up on before heading into theaters. We gave our full recommendation for the character-based, politically-infused look into the grimy underbelly of crime during its Cannes premiere and now you can see five films to watch before below (after you’ve experienced all 86 episodes of The Sopranos, of course).
Animal Kingdom (David Michôd, 2010)
Killing Them Softly has one of the best ensembles of the year, but a few players stand out above the rest — one being the Aussie talent Ben Mendelsohn. Although he’s been working since the 1980’s, in a variety of films including one from Terrence Malick, the actor broke out with this crime drama in a dark, captivating performance. While Dominik’s latest dissects the inner-workings of an entire criminal organization, Michod’s debut takes a look at family dynamics, both films leaving an impression that’s difficult to shake. – Jordan R.
The Friends of Eddie Coyle (Peter Yates, 1973)
One of the sure-to-be-divisive provocations of Dominik’s film is the aggression with which it departs from George V. Higgins’ source material, Cogan’s Trade, but for a more straight-arrow cinematic interpretation of the author’s singular literary punch, there’s no better place to turn than this drama. Yates is far from timid in giving Higgins’ novel a cinematic spin — there are a couple of ingeniously detailed bank-heist sequences that heavily foreshadow Ben Affleck’s The Town — but he remains steadfastly focused on the absorbing, faithful wordiness of Paul Monash’s script, which sucks you into the melancholy that underlies these gripping conversations. Most of these guys — wonderfully portrayed by across-the-board character actors — are bum-hoods just trying to make a living, much different from the criminals that tend to get screen treatment these days. And, most surprising of all, Robert Mitchum’s dog-tired, sad-sack embodiment of the title character makes you think that this performance ought to be remembered right alongside his legendarily, terrifying work in Night of the Hunter. – Danny K.
Inside Job (Charles Ferguson, 2010)
One doesn’t have to listen closely while watching Killing Them Softly to pick up on the not-so-subtle political underpinnings. As the crime drama chronicles the 2008 economic crisis from a micro POV within a hierarchy of criminals, Dominik uses peripheral sights and sounds throughout the the film to include America’s similar problems on the macro playing field. For this recommendation, few films capture the events better that Charles Ferguson‘s Oscar-winning, Matt Damon-narrated documentary Inside Job. Slick and riveting in an entirely different way from Dominik’s film, this one is a must-watch. – Jordan R.
The Limey (Steven Soderbergh, 1999)
Before we hit the 21st century, Steven Soderbergh followed up his crowd-pleasing Out of Sight with a crime drama of a very different variety. Sharing a few similarities with Dominik’s latest, The Limey is an ultra-stylistic exercise following one man who comes in to clean up a mess — not unlike Brad Pitt‘s Cogan. But it’s the knack for superb, original dialogue that both Lem Dobbs and Dominik (as well as author George V. Higgins) share which makes these two films a sublime pairing. – Jordan R.
Point Blank (John Boorman, 1967)
If you just want to know what it’s about, here you go: Lee Marvin as a slippery type getting revenge on some ex-compatriots. Not a one-sentence summary that screams “originality” — especially when you know it’s been re-adapted twice since: in Mel Gibson’s Payback, and with the upcoming Jason Statham-starrer Parker — but, my Lord, does this one stand above its pack. There is, still, the violent action you’d anticipate, but this film allowed both its star and director, John Boorman, to create a beautiful, audacious film that often turns into a work of experimental art. More like a half-remembered reflection than straight depiction, Point Blank stands out for its use of the editing process to juxtapose (sometimes clash) sound and image, creating moments that are hypnotic, unforgettable, and, if you’ll excuse me, just outright cool. A reductive term, I’m aware, but when you see Marvin fire a revolver in super slow-motion, causing his entire body to kick back with the weapon of death, it’s hard to think of anything more apt. – Nick N.
Killing Them Softly hits theaters everywhere on November 30th.
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