KILLING THEM SOFTLY (2012)
The third film by Andrew Dominik (“The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford”) draws inspiration from the films of Scorsese and Tarantino, from TV shows such as The Wire, The Sopranos and from classical heist movies. The film is based on a 1974 novel by George V. Higgins, but the action is set during the electoral campaign of 2008, in order to establish a parallelism between organized crime, politics and the financial meltdown.
The plot centers on a card-game heist and its consequencesfelt by the people involved. Actors Scott McNairy and Ben Meldensohn play brilliantly the two guys who rob the gameunder the orders of a mob leader, while Brad Pitt is Corgan, aprofessional yet atypical killer hired to take care of the situation.
All this looks like a genre movie, it is, but just partially. The preparation and execution of the heist, which occupies about a third of the movie, is shot in a sober and realistic way, but after that, when Brad Pitt’s character comes into scene, the pace slows down and the film turns more philosophical and abstract, more based on dialogues than on action or suspense.
RUBY SPARKS (2012)
The premise of Ruby Sparks is certainly not original: A struggling young writer, Calvin, sees how one of his characters comes to life, and they both fall in love. More than on Pygmalion, I’m thinking of Woody Allen’s “The Purple Rose of Cairo”. But, originality aside, it is an idea with possibilities, which this film just partially exploit.
Actually, the introduction of the characters and situation is the best part of the movie. Calvin is a young writer who succeeded very young and now faces writer’s block. He lives alone with a small dog, and seems quite disconnected from the world. Calvin starts dreaming about this girl… Ruby Sparks, 26 years old, Dayton, Ohio; and words start flowing smoothly at the typewriter. How she comes to life and how he faces this new circumstance, makes for charming, witty comedy.
After this, however, not everything works at the same level. Calvin’s eccentric family comes into the scene, and they seem much more a creation from a writer’s mind than Ruby herself (even resembling “Meet the Fockers”). Also, the conflicts between the couple, while interesting on paper (drawing sharp reflections over the nature of relationships and the character of the writer), are a bit erratic, and the film loses some of the amusing simplicity of the beginning.
All in all, Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan (also author of the script) form a charming couple. Don’t expect much and you’ll get decent, occasionally brilliant entertainment. Rating: 3/5
Jaime Menchén López is passionate about all types of films, to read more, visit his blog jaimemenchen.wordpress.com and UA magazine (united-academics.org/magazine).