NEW THIS WEEK
-- A DROLL, GROWN-UPS-ONLY LITTLE SAGA OF ILLEGAL POKER GAMES AND DUMB GANGSTERS:
"KILLING THEM SOFTLY" R -- A comic tale of boneheaded criminals, "Killing Them Softly" is too profane and violent for under-17s. It is, however, a neat little gangster saga for film buffs college-age and older, skillfully and sparingly directed by Andrew Dominik, based on a book by George V. Higgins. A couple of incredibly stupid jailbirds, Frankie (Scoot McNairy) and Russell (Ben Mendelsohn), don masks, grab a sawed-off shotgun and rob an illegal poker game in a forlorn-looking city. (It was filmed in unscenic sections of New Orleans). The mobsters who own the illegal poker game want revenge. They suspect Markie (Ray Liotta), who operates the game, and who engineered his own fake robbery once before to score some cash. This time, though, Markie claims innocence and says he didn't know the amateurs who did it. The mobsters bring in Jackie (Brad Pitt), a super-cool hit man, to clean house. A lawyerly fellow (Richard Jenkins) who represents the mobsters tries to limit the carnage, but one thing leads to another and guys die. James Gandolfini has a short but effective turn as a second hit man brought in by Jackie to help out.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The actual on-screen violence occurs less frequently than one might expect, but when it does, it involves much blood and often unfolds in slow-motion. One character gets a jaw-crushing beating, and another uses extremely crude and explicit sexual language. The dialogue is highly, comically profane. Several drink heavily and use drugs.
-- AN EYE-OPENING DOCUMENTARY SET IN THE EMERGENCY ROOM OF A HOSPITAL:
"THE WAITING ROOM" Not Rated, But Has Brief Strong Language -- High-schoolers with an interest in public issues and/or medicine will find high drama and brain-bending questions in this cinema verite-style documentary, set in the emergency waiting room of Highland Hospital in Oakland, Calif. In 2010, filmmaker Peter Nicks spent five months filming in the charity hospital's emergency waiting room and treatment rooms. He was given what looks like full access. His 83-minute film is a composite that feels like it unfolds over one day. You get to know patients, nurses and doctors -- a little girl with strep throat so bad her tongue is swollen and she can't open her mouth; a young man diagnosed with testicular cancer who can't afford the urgent surgery; a carpet installer with horrible back pain; a helpless older drug addict with no place to go; doctors and nurses who try to help all the poor, uninsured people of every age and background who fill that waiting room. High-schoolers may come away with the sense that our health care system certainly needs something to make it better.
THE BOTTOMLINE: One older kidney patient takes out all his anger, fear and depression on a young doctor late in the film, cussing at him with every word in the book. That would earn an R rating. The rest is more PG-13-ish -- nongraphic glimpses of emergency surgery on teenage gunshot victims, with understated shots of blood on the floor, bloodied bandages and instruments. There's a millisecond view of a partially naked patient on an examining table.
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-- OK FOR KIDS 8 AND OLDER:
(c) 2012, Washington Post Writers Group.