Saturday, 22 September 2012

REVIEW - KILLING THEM SOFTLY


Nobody particularly needs a dose of social commentary in their cinematic diet. Andrew Dominik, though, is determined to administer some. I don't debate that it stresses a pertinent (if hardly original) issue in contemporary Western socio-economics, nor that it forms an integral part of this film. I just wonder if it actually improves the film at all. Dominik lays it on thick and direct, then retreats as if to allow the message to be absorbed. But there's not nearly enough substance to absorb it in the story he's telling. We witness a narrow chain of events, devoid of suspense or surprise, shot in a pretentious haze, always at least just beyond arm's reach. It's a shame that Dominik senses a necessity to apply such self-consciously artsy touches - his natural touch is not artsy but artful, and his better instincts imbue so many moments with a truly distinct and interesting tone. Entire sequences receive a specific individual treatment - you (almost) always know where you are within the moment, yet rarely within the film as a whole. When this abstruse technique works, the results are excellent - a character's drug trip is seen from his perspective to disarming effect, another's beating isn't seen but felt from his perspective, and powerfully so. But, overall, this is a film that comes to life in moments, sometimes with great vigour, peters away in other moments, and dies on its ass every once in a while too. Dominik does conjure an appropriate atmosphere of dislocation, especially in early scenes, quiet and barren, stripped of all extraneous matter. But he indulges himself in his dialogue too much in some scenes, and his screenplay isn't as clever as he apparently thinks it is (until the cracking last lines). The soundscape is characterised by creative ambient work by Marc Streitenfeld, the photography is intermittently stunning and there's an innovative slow-motion scene that I rather enjoyed.