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The Brad Pitt film, Killing them softly, is an allegory of 2008's subprime economic crisis. I'd like to know who each of the characters in the film is supposed to represent in relation to the crisis. Similarly, are there particular events in the film which have corresponding events IRL?

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4 Answers 4

Liotta is Jimmy Cayne, former CEO of Bear Stearns, who refused to participate in the bailout of LTCM years ago (heist #1 when Liotta really did do it), and so was allowed to die by the other bosses(Bear was the first to go down, before Lehman).

The card games are the financial system itself - trading and investing being gambling in this case. Once confidence is shaken, the entire system freezes up as it did in 2008.

Gandolfini and Pitt are the financial regulators at the time, Paulson, Geitner, Bair, Bernanke - who are all on the banks payroll, but are meant to be keeping order - hence the misguided mortality of the Brad Pitt character, and the washed up ground into meat nature of the Gandolfini character. They know they have moral obligations, but they also know it is the banks, and not the government, who ultimately pay them. They eventually " bail out " the Jenkins' Driver character (bank CEO's) by solving their crisis of confidence problem for Driver, through in this case killing some of the responsible parties.

The Frankie character represents the rogue traders who participated in the financial collapse and were summarily either socially executed or arrested during the collapse and blame was assigned to them even though they were mere bit players.

Jenkins' Driver represents the surviving banks' CEO's- Goldman's Blankfein, JP Morgan's Dimon - who emerged unscathed and even more powerful from the crisis. so powerful that he could refuse to pay Pitt (the financial regulator) the full amount he was owed at the end - that amount being representative of the bank bailouts, the money from which was never fully paid back.

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Based on evidence like this...

"This is an unrepentantly cynical take on the hope-and-change promised to the US in 2008" reviewer in The Guardian

from the film's creator Andrew Dominik in an interview: "as I started adapting it, it was the story of an economic crisis, and it was an economic crisis in an economy that was funded by gambling, and the crisis occurred due to a failure in regulation."

...here's my take:

In the movie, illegal gambling has ceased in New Orleans because two heists have occurred at Ray Liotta's (Markie's) poker games, and no one knows who to trust anymore. This represents how money-lending around the world largely grinded to a halt as the housing crisis began to unfold.

In the movie, the mafia was making money off the gambling, so the mafia wants gambling back -- just like how the world's investors were making money off of money-lending, so they desperately wanted a return to normalcy in lending.

From there, the allegory is less clear to me, but I think Ray Liotta's Markie could be a nod to George W. Bush. The heist went down on his watch, and though he wasn't technically involved in this particular heist, everyone knows he is shady, and someone has to take a fall -- so he gets whacked.

Brad Pitt's Jackie might be Barack Obama, a golden-boy leading candidate to take out Markie. James Gandolfini's Mickey might be John McCain, the over-the-hill other candidate who ends up getting dissed.

Richard Jenkins' Driver -- who, after the heist, recruits Jackie to kill Markie -- could be the American voters, or maybe the world's investor class. In any case, Driver chooses Jackie over Mickey, just like Obama was chosen over McCain to replace Bush.

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Dillon dies on the eve of Obama taking over, so isn't it obvious that Dillon represented Bush? Pitt, then, would be Obama. Gandolfini seemed like a Wall Street firm, drunk and out of its mind, not taking orders from anyone. AIG, perhaps. Liotta was definitely Leyman Brothers, that much is for sure. I think the driver dude (who hated cigs) was supposed to be like an upper-level manager working for the corporate CEOs, who, like in real life, we never see but call all the shots just the same.

I noticed that more than a couple people think Liotta's Trattman was supposed to be Bush, but I couldn't disagree more. Bush did not "pay the piper" like Trattman, not at all. He was already a media punching bag when the crises occured, and the only price Bush paid (for excessively promoting home ownership and looking the other way while millions of poor people were given unrealistic loans and kept looking the other way as those loans were traded between mortgage companies as "at face-value" capital) was further vilification by the press. I'm not saying he should have been held accountable, BTW. The fault lies at the feet of Wall Street, just like most everything else that's wrong with America. (IMHO, obviously.)

I hope more people write what they think about this movie, because three is too few interpretations to really get a feel of what normal people are thinking.

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Any allegory that is determined in the film by the viewers comes from the source material for the film. This was a 1970s crime novel, Cogan's Trade written by the late George V. Huggins.

While the film neatly "fits" into the economic situation of the time period where it is set, its original setting (Boston in the 1970s) was itself a time of economic change and turmoil and the modern setting of the film simply mirrors that state of being.

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Thank you. Would you care to elaborate on the setting in the 1970s and how it relates to this film? –  coleopterist Dec 30 '13 at 17:17
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Cogan's Trade, the source novel, is set in an economically depressed Boston where the Mafia is losing its grip upon power and has to exert that power by the killings regarding the card game. Boston was an economically depressed area in the mid to late 1970s and most of Huggin's novels (another one is The Friends of Eddie Coyle,made into a Robert Mitchum classic film) are set in that area to exploit how that depression motivates his characters actions. New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina served two purpose: 1) Louisiana offers excellent film tax credits 2) Its depressed. Boston no longer is. –  Mistah Mix Dec 30 '13 at 22:25

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