KILLING THEM SOFTLY
NOTE: This spoiler was submitted by Spectre.
The film takes place in 2008, prior to Barack Obama’s election to the presidency and during which the economic recession necessitated the bank bailout by the government.
We see Frankie (Scoot McNairy) walking through a tunnel as trash blows out around him. We heard snippets of an Obama campaign speech.
Frankie waits around for someone. That person is Russell (Ben Mendelson), who is walking a dog. Frankie is pissed as Russell has made him wait 3 hours. Russell brushes him off. They head to a meeting.
They are meeting with Johnny “Squirrel” Amato (Vincent Curatola) to a job for him. Amato doesn’t like Russell or his attitude and Russell doesn’t help by acting like an asshole. Amato kicks Russell out of his office and tells Frankie to wait till Thursday to see if the job is still on or not. Amato is cautious about picking the right people as the last job he did involved a man nicknamed “The Doctor.” The Doctor screwed up, putting Amato in jail. The Doctor was apparently killed later in retribution.
Russell and Frankie talk. Frankie tells Russell to be nicer to Amato. Russell tells Frankie that Amato is a prick, and he doesn’t care about the job. He could either do it or not, but he is not going to wait around. He’s only doing the job for the money it can bring so he can start selling dogs, and then use that money to buy smack to become a dealer. Russell tells Frankie to coax some details out of Amato to see what the job is about.
Frankie goes to Amato and tells him though Russell is an idiot, he likes him, and he couldn’t find anyone else to do the job with. Frankie asks what the job is about. Amato asks if he ever robbed a card came. Frankie says he could, but they are protected by the mob. Amato says he knows about one game they can hit and the second they do it, the person responsible will be killed. Frankie says that doesn’t make him feel comfortable, but Amato elaborates further. A man named Mark Trattman (Ray Liotta) runs this particular game.
Trattman oversaw the mob controlled card games. A few years ago, the game he was running got robbed, causing all the mob controlled games to shut down. Obviously, people started to think it was an inside job. So they sent Dillon (Sam Shepard) and his enforcer Kenny Gill (Slaine) to have a “talk” with Trattman. Trattman held up despite taking a beating and was clear of suspicion. The games reopened and everyone starting making money again. Then one night, people started talking about the night Trattman got robbed. Trattman started laughing and admitted to robbing his own game. Lucky for him, everyone thought it was hilarious, and he was given a pass.
Amato knows that if the games get robbed again on Trattman’s watch, the mob will thing he robbed himself again and will kill him, leaving the three of them in the clear. Frankie agrees to the plan, though Amato cautions him for him and Russell to have a clear head as no one is supposed to die at the card game.
Frankie and Russell drive to the game, talking about sex. Russell specifically talks about a blonde woman he meets from time to time. One time, she answers the door stark naked, and they go into the bedroom to have sex. The moment after they are done, she turns to Russell and says “I’m going to kill myself.” Frankie shakes his head. “They all say that,” he says.
Frankie and Russell prep themselves at the hotel where the game is taking place. Russell could only get dishwater gloves, which are big and thick. “We’re going to look like fucking amateur’s man,” Frankie says. Then Russell gives him his gun. It’s a sawed off shotgun sawed down so much, the shells are visible. “That thing goes off, it will kill everyone in the room,” Frankie says. Russell says that’s what he wanted, and he’ll need to be more specific next time. Frankie gets out of the car pissed about “carrying a hand grenade and wearing a condom on my hand.”
They travel down a hallway, into a secluded area. They go inside the room where the game is being played and tell everyone to put their hands up. They see another door and wait for Trattman to show up. When he walks through the door, they grab him too. Trattman winces, immediately realizing how this will look to people. “I hope you know what you’re doing,” Trattman says. Trattman asks if they want him to get the money. Russell goes with him while Frankie watches over the other players.
Trattman hands over two suitcases of cash, but tries to reason with Russell, saying the mob will kill him for this. However, if he puts down his gun right now and leaves, that will be the end of it. They’ll even take care of his friend. Russell is swayed for a moment then gets Trattman to bring the money out to the main room. However, Frankie is not done yet. He forces all the mob guys to empty their wallets. Russell wants to leave, but Frankie overrules him. He tells the mob guys they can do this the easy way, or he and Russell can get nervous and it will be done the hard way. “It’s only money,” Frankie says. The mob guys give up the rest. Frankie and Russell get out of there and drive off.
Cut to Jackie Cogan (Brad Pitt) driving into town. He meets up with Driver (Richard Jenkins), the mob lawyer who is the go between for everyone.
Driver tells Cogan that Trattman said there were 2 kids that robbed the placed. “Trattman said,” Cogan replies. Cogan obviously doesn’t hold much to Trattman’s word, knowing what he did. Nevertheless, Cogan quickly deduces that Trattman isn’t stupid to rob himself twice; someone else has used his past history in the hopes of getting away clean.
Cogan tells Driver to okay the death of Trattman, feeling the people will always think he did it anyway. Driver balks saying the committee will never okay that; they have become more squeamish to murder. They just want Cogan to talk to him, maybe slap him around some. Cogan is disgusted with how weak his bosses have become to do what is necessary. He tells Driver that to beat up Trattman only to kill him later is cruel. Cogan asks Driver about his bosses. Driver says it is total corporate mentality with them now. “I have to hold their hands and guide them through everything like retarded children,” Driver says.
Later that night, Steve Caprio (Trevor Long) and Barry Caprio (Max Casella) are waiting at Trattman’s house. When he comes home, they force him into their car and drive him off to have a chat. Trattman swears he has nothing to do with what happened. Steve and Barry don’t believe him of course. They give him the beating of his life, to his face, chest, anywhere that will hurt. Halfway through the beating, Trattman starts crying and begging for them to stop hurting him. They hit him more and he vomits up his dinner, at one point, dripping vomit on Steve’s shoe. Steve loses it and beats Trattman unconscious and leaves him in the middle of the road as he and his brother drive off.
The next day, Russell is at a bus station. He hides a brick of smack he bought in a locker.
Russell gets high with Frankie present, who is just smoking cigarettes. Russell tells him about his trip to Florida with the dogs. He was with Kenny, and they were driving in the middle of a bad rainstorm. Unfortunately, the sixteen dogs they were carrying were in the backseat of their station wagon. All the dogs were pissing, farting, and shitting all over the car. If they kept the windows up, they’d suffocate from the smell, but if they put the windows down, they’d drown in the rain. Needless to say, it was not a pleasant trip.
After they sold the dogs, they had to get rid of the car. Kenny put a lit rag in the gas tank to blow it up. It blows, but the car was apparently still in car, because it kicks back, knocking into him, hard, throwing him on his back. Russell laughs.
Russell begins to nod in and out during his drug trip, with Frankie having to occasionally snap him out of it. Frankie tells him that they are in the clear since they beat up Trattman and he is as good as dead. Russell says he knows about it. Kenny talked about it. Frankie perks up, realizing Russell may have talked. Russell then says there is a contract out on him, Frankie, and Amato. He’s leaving for Montreal the second he can. Frankie asks if the Kenny he is talking about is Kenny Gill. Russell says yes. Frankie freaks out as Kenny works for Dillon, and Dillon works with the people they just ripped off. Frankie asks if Russell said anything else to Kenny, but Russell denies it, passing out from his drug trip.
Frankie drives off in his car, at the point of tears. He doesn’t believe Russell. He knows someone is after them all, and his days are numbered.
Cogan takes another meeting with Driver. He heard from Kenny who works for Dillon (who has been sick in the hospital). Russell drove with him to Florida and blabbed about the robbery. Cogan can’t believe that no one can just keep their mouths shut. So Cogan surmises that 4 people have to die. First, Trattman has to die even though he had no part in it. The people on the street think he did it, and if he is given a pass again, everyone will try to rob them.
Cogan explains his philosophy about killing. He doesn’t like to do it up close, as people get emotional; they cry, beg, and call for their mothers. He prefers to “kill them softly”, from a distance. That way he does his job, and the target is put through the least amount of suffering possible.
Cogan can do the 2 kids (Russell and Frankie), but he can’t do Amato since Amato knows him. He needs an outsider to do it and recommends Mickey (James Gandolfini). Driver says the bosses might not spring for two guys, but Cogan says it is a two man job. They spruce him 15,000 for two days work and Mickey will be happy. The Driver agrees, but gets one concession; Mickey has to fly coach.
Mickey flies in and meets Cogan at a high class bar. Mickey drinks a lot, something that Cogan notices. Cogan tries to slow him down, but Mickey is less than willing to listen. “I was drinking before you came out of your father’s cock,” Mickey says. Mickey tells Cogan about how he got arrested for shotguns he was going to use for hunting. The man he’s with is trying to say they were his, and if the court’s don’t believe the guy, Mickey goes to jail for felony possession. Cogan offers him Amato and the 2 kids, but Mickey declines, saying he’s on bail and shouldn’t even be here without permission from the court. He’ll just do Amato, and leave town again. Cogan agrees.
That night, Kenny meets Cogan at a diner. He is going to be the driver as they tail Trattman. They see Trattman leave a nearby restaurant. They follow him, and while Trattman waits at a red light, Cogan pulls up and puts down the window. In a slow motion sequence, he shoots Trattman several times, one going through his face. Trattman’s foot slams on the pedal and he goes into traffic and gets hit by another car, his head crashing into the windshield.
Cogan goes to the hotel to check on Mickey. He finds him, three days later, still drinking and screwing hookers. In fact, one is in the room right then. Mickey directs her to take 200 bucks from his wallet, but doesn’t give her a tip. He then calls her back in. “Here’s a tip honey. You roll the condom on with your mouth and you stop treating your anus as a natural treasure,” Mickey says. The hooker and Mickey trade some more words, and she leaves cussing him out.
Cogan tries to get Mickey back on track about the job he is supposed to be doing, but all Mickey wants to do is talk about sex. “No ass like a young Jewish girl whose just started hooking,” Mickey says. Cogan reminds him that he is being paid to do a job, and he is drunk and needs to get some rest. He’s going to call him in a few hours and he better be ready, or he’ll call the cops on him and get him arrested so his bail will get revoked. “I don’t take orders from shits like you!” Mickey screams. Cogan leaves.
Cogan talks to Driver. Cogan says they have problems and they need to get rid of Mickey. Driver tells Cogan he picked him, but Cogan says he wanted Mickey from a few years ago; Mickey’s worthless now. Driver and Cogan conspire to pay a hooker to get into a fight with Mickey at the hotel so the cops will be called and he will go back to jail. Cogan thinks it will be best for him.
Meanwhile, Russell goes to retrieve his drugs, not knowing he is being watched by the cops. They quickly arrest him.
Frankie talks to Amato about Russell being arrested. He feels bad that there is nothing he can do for him, but he warned Russell not to be stupid. “This country man,” Frankie says, “We’re all on our own.”
Cogan tracks Frankie down at the bar. Cogan tells him that he knows some of Frankie’s friends, and they are concerned about him, and what he did. Frankie tries to brush him off, saying he doesn’t know him. Cogan replies that very few people know him. But Cogan knows Dillon. Frankie goes white; he knows exactly why Cogan is here. Cogan says Frankie has a rare opportunity. “You have choices,” Cogan tells him. If he gives up Johnny Amato, he can be spared. If not there is the “other” choice (be killed himself). Frankie goes back and forth on selling out Amato but realizes he wants to live and says he knows where Amato will be that night. Cogan tells him that he will have to drive and participate; that is his price for staying alive.
Frankie drives Cogan to where he knows Amato drops off his girl on the side. When Amato leaves her apartment, Cogan is waiting with a shotgun and shoots a round at Amato, going through the car windows into him. Cogan waits for a moment for any movement or noises. He hears Amato cry out. He chambers another shell and walks up to point blank range. Amato sees him and starts crying out, realizing what it is really about. Cogan fires one more round at Amato, it going into the back of Amato’s head, exposing brain matter. Cogan heads back to the car and he and Frankie head off.
Frankie hears the cops and is freaking out, driving too fast. Cogan tells him to slow down before they get pulled over. Frankie can’t calm down, so he lets Cogan drive.
They pull into a parking garage. Frankie is going to wipe down the car, drive to his own, and leave. Cogan asks if he understands as he gets out of the car, and Frankie gets into the driver’s seat. As Frankie begins to reiterate his instructions, Cogan shoots him in the head. Cogan then fires four more times into Frankie’s chest then wipes the car down for prints. Cogan is a professional. There was no mob “clemency” deal for Frankie. Cogan only said that to gain his trust, lull him into a false sense of security, and then kill him once Amato was dead. Cogan walks out of the parking garage.
Cut to Amato and Frankie dead, and toe tagged in the morgue.
It is now Election Day 2008. Barack Obama has been elected president. Cogan walks into a bar, watching the people celebrate. Driver hands him the money. They listen to Obama talk about coming together as one nation. Cogan scoffs at his optimism, saying it is fake. Cogan goes to the bathroom to count his money. He comes back out and says he is owed more. Driver says Dillon gets 10,000 for each hit, so that’s what he got. 3 contracts equal 30,000 (Trattman, Amato, Frankie). Cogan says Mickey was promised 15,000 for a hit he didn’t do. Driver says Mickey got arrested for a bail violation and is going to jail. Driver tells Cogan to take this up with Dillon. Cogan tells him that Dillon died that morning. Driver says he’s sorry to hear that. They listen more to Obama’s speech. Driver says this is a business of relationships.
“Don’t make me laugh,” Cogan replies.
“You’re a real cynical bastard, you know that?” Driver asks. He points to the speech and says that’s for him.
Cogan then explains a bit about Thomas Jefferson. He wrote all men are created equal. Yet he had sexual relations with a slave, and he allowed his children to be in chains. He wrote those words, but he didn’t fight himself; he let young men die for him, a rich old white man.
Cogan sees Obama, and his change, and his talk of unity and laughs.
“I live in America, and in America you’re on your own. America is not a country. It’s a business. NOW FUCKING PAY ME,” Cogan snarls.
Fade to black, roll credits.