Sin Kills Them Softly

I was intrigued by a movie I recently watched called Killing Them Softly. The film really didn’t have that much going for it; however, I think it was a fascinating portrayal of the effects of sin on the human soul. Here’s the plot: Two men hold up a mob-controlled card game. The mob retaliates by hiring hit man Jackie Cogan (Brad Pitt) to investigate and punish the robbers. He, in turn, hires hit man Mickey Fallon (James Gandolfini) to help.

Jackie meets regularly with a Mafia emissary named Driver (Richard Jenkins). Driver and Jackie are god-like characters, deciding the fate of the robbers and others. Jackie seems to be the more evil of the two. Driver sometimes pleads for mercy, while Jackie always takes a hard line.

I found the movie’s title somewhat puzzling: The victims are not killed softly. They are shot to death. The movie’s “moral” seems to be that we are all alone in this world and that ideals such as love and community are lies. So, maybe there’s a deeper meaning to the movie’s title: The rejection of love kills the soul softly, that is, gradually and subtly.

The movie conveys the theme of spiritual death in various ways. Neighborhoods are dilapidated. The two robbers, Frankie (Scoot McNairy) and Russell (Ben Mendelsohn), look like homeless people. Russell is a heroin addict who, during one conversation, seems to be on the verge of blacking out. Mickey Fallon is a despairing drunk and whoremonger. Markie Trattman (Ray Liotta), the proprietor of the poker ring who is viciously beaten and later murdered, seems almost resigned to his dark fate.

Throughout its history, Hollywood has been profiting from the human attraction to evil, and it has often done a remarkable job showing how sin destroys the soul. It’s too bad that most viewers of Killing Them Softly will not realize this, partly because they are too affected by sin themselves. The movie’s creators not only exploit evil to attract audiences, they, intentionally or not, promote evil. I believe that demonic forces dominate the entertainment industry and that many movie makers are their pawns (and probably don’t realize it). Movies that glorify evil are not “just entertainment” that we shouldn’t take too seriously. That attitude helps demonic forces kill souls softly.

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