This just in: Some films are controversial.
One of the best ways to see a film’s wide disparity of critical feedback is through the Critics Split section at the bottom right-hand corner of the Criticwire grades homepage. But how good are you at spotting how reviews and grades match up? Let’s find out with our first ever Criticwire Pull Quote Match Game.
In this initial installment, we’re looking at responses to Andrew Dominik’s polarizing 2012 release “Killing Them Softly.” Some critics loved this crime saga set against the backdrop of the 2008 Presidential election and financial crisis. Some critics did not. So who thought what? That’s up to you to figure out based on their pull quotes.
Each of these reviews match up to a different grade on the A+ to F scale. See if you can match each grade to each quote. You’ll find the answers on the next page.
The Pull Quotes:
“‘Killing Them Softly”s gauche finger-wagging may not be implemented with much nuance, but it’s nevertheless the distinguishing feature of an otherwise entirely facile genre picture, simply the latest entry in an endless line of crime thrillers too concerned with looking cool.”
“The whole witty-gunman thing has been done to excess in the 20 years since ‘Reservoir Dogs,’ but one would have hoped that writer-director Andrew Dominik, coming off the brilliant and underrated ‘The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford,’ might have injected some new life into this sagging genre. And while the cast is consistently watchable and on-point, Dominik disappoints as both scenarist and filmmaker.“
“On the one hand, Dominik’s stylish chops deliver the film’s best moments. On the other, his approach takes away the heart that needs to beat for style to succeed. While competent, the script conforms to the tics of the traditional and limited American crime film. And the performances don’t break new ground.“
“Large-scale satire in the form of moral allegory is something very few filmmakers even think to attempt, much less try, much less pull off so successfully, but once you latch onto Dominik’s peculiar rhythms and modes of representation, there’s really something there.“
“The film can be a slow burn at times, but it is constantly engrossing and ramps up the tension with ease. The set pieces are thrilling when they pop up, but the film is more concerned at looking at the day to day mindset of these crooks and what makes them tick.“
“Much of the movie (with a few crucial exceptions) is stripped down, from straightforward editing to a sound design that is mostly music free. But the movie is not without pretentions…Godard used such techniques to alienate the viewer, but Dominik uses them to convey a fractured, hopelessly alienated America.“
“This relationship is direct in ‘Chopper’ and ‘Assassination,’ as Brandon and Jesse James, both based on real life criminals, become celebrities because of their excesses, sensationalized by their respective media. In ‘Killing Them Softly,’ the relationship is more indirect, but no less sinister: here Cogan is a corollary for the smart guys on TV, even if he’s cynical about the stories they tell.“
“It’s a clever-enough idea — a ratty criminal enterprise as the American economy in miniature — but ‘Killing Them Softly’ isn’t content to let the parallel drift lightly in the air, like the smoke from one of its character’s cigarettes. It hammers the theme home, repeatedly.“
“‘Killing Them Softly’ has aspirations of intellect beyond its genre conventions, and its violent plotting is accompanied at every turn by trendily pessimistic commentary on capitalist greed and iniquity – commentary that’s delivered, unfortunately, with all the finesse of a shotgun blast leveled straight at the back of your head.“
“For the real deal, telling it like it is about US presidents, skip the puffery of Lincoln and catch ‘Killing Them Softly”s take on Thomas Jefferson and founding fathers debauchery instead. This ultra-violent gangster thriller satire gets elevated way above mob conventions, via Brad Pitt’s masterfully monologuing hitman with an Occupy Wall Street subversive sensibility.“
“Dominik thinks he can get away with all this because he’s doing Something Important, because he’s showing the black heart at the center of the American myth, the awful truth that the world sucks and everyone is cruel and out for themselves. And hey, maybe it’s that easy. Or maybe Dominik is using cynicism to stand in for insight. He wears his nihilism as a badge, but that’s not what it is at all: It’s a crutch, and an awfully flimsy one.”
Got your guesses ready? The answers are on the next page.
A+ (Scott Nye)
A (Cynthia Fuchs)
A- (Zac Oldenburg)
B+ (Pat Padua)
B (Prairie Miller)
B- (Beth Hanna)
C+ (Tom Clift)
C (Alonso Duralde)
C- (Will Leitch)
D+ (Josh Larsen)
D- (Calum Marsh)