Amongst the less easy-to-pin films of Cannes thus far is Andrew Dominik's follow-up to "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford". To be honest, if they told me "Killing Them Softly" was just a contemporary update of that previous work, I'd believe them. This has been a difficult film to follow, due to an uncertainty over how it will turn out. But as the festival keeps moving ever forward, we keep hearing positive, if not overly ecstatic, receptions. Somehow that feels worst than having several major disappointments, but we'll learn to forgive. That's where this film stands, not quite at being "hit of the festival", and instead being rather simply agreeable.
Todd McCarthy (Hollywood Reporter): "The film noir crime dramas of the late 1940s and early 1950s were about a palpable unease in the country, but this remained a subtext rather than the overt subject of the films. Here, Dominik explicitly articulates his intended meanings, which have to do with money, institutional rot and what happens when you don’t keep your economic house in order. Either approach is valid but, perhaps in this day and age, audiences need their messages to be quick and direct. Killing Them Softly delivers them that way."
Kevin Jagernauth (The Playlist): "Certain to court controversy, "Killing Them Softly" captures in no uncertain terms the frustration and failed promises the American public as a whole have dealt with as well as the lack of accountability and inability to take difficult but needed action to right the ship. Is this the first economic/political gangster movie ever made? All we know is that we want to see it again to keep digging into this dense and penetrating film. Easily a contender for one of the best movies of the year, "Killing Them Softly" pulses and burns in a way few films ever do."
Peter Bradshaw (The Guardian): "Dominik controls the scenario and the cast tremendously well. Admittedly, slo-mo hit scenes to the accompaniment of ironically romantic music, and pre-crime banter and squabbling between robbers, are not entirely original, but these scenes are executed with flair, with a regular supply of dialogue zingers. There are some outstanding set pieces – the moment when Russell and a fellow criminal try to destroy a car by setting it on fire is a surreal moment of dismay."
Guy Lodge (In Contention): "KILLING THEM SOFTLY (B-) Blinding dirty-70s homage taken to stylistically suspended present, all to add stunningly banal Obama surtext? Why? Still, familiarly flavourful and grubbily gorgeous, with bland Pitt a shock absorber for off-the-chain support cast. Gandolfini! Mendelsohn!"