Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Killing Them Softly In 250 Words or Less

I don't usually take note of sound design, but Killing Them Softly assaults you with it from its opening moments as a speech by Barack Obama is erratically chopped up with ambient static. (Is ambient static a thing? Oh it is now.) It immediately grabs your heckles and stands them on end, and from there it's nothing but - lulls and highs, off-centered rhythms, staccato phantom sensations. This movie's like a ghost limb - you can feel it floating where your fingers used to be. Its sound is so voluminous, voluptuous - listen to the buzzing of the refrigerator and the drip drip drop of water somewhere, everywhere, in the big bad-idea robbery scene... you cannot escape it. And then they talk, and talk, and talk, and you meet some new pairs of fellas who talk, and talk, and talk some more, and the banter bee-bops back and forth between 'em, rat-a-tat-tat pistons half-time half-stuck in soupy-assed molasses, sped back up again, played left of center, nearly normal like. Just when you're comfortable (you're never comfortable), wham, it's ever so softly just out of whack again. Slow-motion homicide writ super cinematic. This movie's like moldy peach fuzz and torn linoleum, fluorescent lighting and sharp hotel sheets. It is the clank of mostly melted ice cubes, and hair gel, and frayed labels on beer bottles, and smoke half glanced out of sleep. It sneaks up on you, whispers subtle curse words, and barks.


gregory brown said...

Nice word flow. That sums up an important part of how the film works,at a not-quite subliminal sound level. That's even more important than the slo-mo bullets.

Roark said...

Awesome review. Seriously. Saw this last night and it totally knocked me on my ass. That off kilter opening, the bar scene with Gandolfini, Liotta's desperate eyes, that brutal beatdown, and maybe the best ending of the year. Too bad it already seems destined now to go down as one of 2012's most underseen/underappreciated films.

Lars said...

YES! This is probably the film that I took notice of the sound, especially in the opening, a kick-ass 15-20 minutes.

I saw it just yesterday, and it is definitely an underseen/underappreciated film like Roark has said. However, a few quibbles:
--the director sometimes falls head over heels over his own sense of style (the stoner/high sequence is one of the most annoying thing to me even though I understand what he is trying to do)
--Unlike Roark, I find Gandolfini drags the energy of the whole film down tremendously, so much that the film never recovers from the energy in the opening, and there are TWO of these scenes. I get it, you want to have a guy who has played Tony Soprano before, and show him to be down on his luck, even for a hitman. But for me, his appearance was a complete letdown.
--The political commentary was there, but it seemed a bit elementary and heavy-handed

However, I do appreciate the dark humour that this movie has (I was like the only one who laughed during some sequences). Brad Pitt is more amazing than I thought he would be, probably one of the best supporting (?) performances of this year. Jenkins has some funny/clueless stuff as well.