Brad Pitt is a mob hitman on the trail of three small time criminals who saw an opportunity to rip off some big hitters and throw someone else under the bus for it.
Set in the backdrop of the late 2000s economic crash and also the 2008 presidential election, Killing Them Softly is as much about economic doctrine, unbridled capitalism, as it is about Brad Pitt being a smooth and almost reluctant killer. The message is hardly subtle either. The film opens with audio from a speech by Senator Barack Obama and closes with a conversation in a bar where two characters watch as he is announced President. Throughout, we see numerous TV sets, hear many radios, all with some politician talking about the state of the economy in America. Unlike Pitt's style of working in the film, to kill them softly, the "sub"-text here is delivered with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer crashing through your car window.
The rest of it though, is quite smooth and an easy ride. Everything about KTS, from Pitt's wardrobe to the cars to the soundtrack and everything give the film a hazy feel of a time long past, despite being set only a few years in the past. Things tend to linger and meander, making the film feel quite a bit long than its ~100minute runtime. It's a quality that leaves you with time to process things. In many other takes on this story, the hitman would be the embodiment of retribution, catching up to these guys who thought they could rip somebody off. But he's not a hero, he's a guy that kills for money, they're scumbag thieves and the guys paying the hitman don't even have the courtesy to get their hands even a little dirty and only appear via a messenger in the form of Richard Jenkins (who, after this and Cabin in the Woods, seems to be making a habit of visiting horrible cruelties on people in a very corporate and matter-of-fact manner). There aren't really any good guys in the film, just some who are slightly more charismatic, and at that is, at the least, interesting.
Killing Them Softly isn't something I'm going to rave about to anyone in the future. It's partly down to my biases in that I don't really like neo-noir type films (Drive notwithstanding), but I have a feeling those who do will enjoy it at least a little. I could've done with a little less explicitness with the comparison of criminal empires to the US economic system in 2008 (bankers were/are criminals, I get it), but otherwise it's a solid piece of work.