Brad Pitt's character Jackie Cogan in the stylish crime movie 'Killing Them Softly' has to clean up a mess after a robbery gone wrong. But in the world of 'Killing Them Softly' “clean up” is really more like “blowing people’s brain’s out.” It ain't pretty.
Director Andrew Dominik's previous two movies were 'Chopper,' in which a beefed up, tattooed Eric Bana plays legendary criminal Mark 'Chopper' Read, and the Western 'The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford,' with Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck, so you know the director is all about the outlaw.
Pitt is cool as ice, and Ray Liotta is Markie Trattman, a decent guy who runs a high-stakes poker game. He messed up pretty bad in the past, and karma comes knocking.
It's a dark, cynical look at business and capitalism and it has one of the most violent, cringe-worthy beat downs in recent memory. Dominik spoke to RedBullUSA.com about antiheroes, watching Ray Liotta get beat to a pulp, and directing Brad Pitt.
Based on the films you've made, it seems like you're more drawn to the antihero and the outlaw than the so-called good guys. What attracts you to those characters?
I think an antihero is more human somehow. Flawed people are more interesting and they do more interesting things. I guess I'm not into family men. The characters in 'Killing Them Softly' were created by the writer of the novel (the movie is based on 'Cogan's Trade' by George V. Higgins) and when I read it I just felt like I'd known them.
The book takes place in 1970s New England and you set the movie in present day New Orleans. Were there any other big changes from the original story?
The violence was adjusted a little bit. I wanted to play with how to make it memorable or shocking or beautiful on film.
"Two guys have to beat up a guy they know and they hope he'll take it like a man and make it easier on them, and he completely pusses out. So they get angry and really hurt him, and he folds like a wet paper bag."
The scene where Ray Liotta's character Markie gets beat to a pulp is hard to watch but also really intense and affective. The way it was shot and the sound effects make you feel every punch, and every bone crack. What was your thought process when you were shooting that scene?
Two guys have to beat up a guy they know and they hope he'll take it like a man and make it easier on them, and he completely pusses out. So they get angry and really hurt him, and he folds like a wet paper bag. Ray was prepared and he was egoless about it, so the scene is based on Ray's performance. He's been on the other end of those kind of beatings in movies like 'Goodfellas,' so here we see him on the other side.
The robbery scene is also really impressive. It's tense and almost hard to watch -- in a good way. How did you envision that scene, since it's definitely a pivotal one?
You're convinced something is gonna go wrong in that scene, that it'll just go pear shaped. You expect them to fuck it up and it's a robbery where the robbers are terrified and the people being robbed are not scared at all. It also depended on how it was cut, to create that tension and feeling that something could go very wrong.
The scenes with Brad Pitt and Richard Jenkins, who plays the corporate stiff who hires Cogan to clean up the mess, are usually just two guys sitting in a car talking, but they're great to watch. How was directing those guys?
Richard invented a character -- underneath the iceberg he makes it feel very real. He's very complete. Brad likes to play around and so do I, so we kind of muck around and try a whole lot of different things.
So what's next?
I'm adapting the Marilyn Monroe book 'Blonde' next year. There aren't any murders, but she's also a flawed character I guess, with that quiet desperation.