Brad Pitt's latest film "Killing Them Softly," which hit theaters on Friday, pulled in a disappointing $7 million on its debut weekend, one of the busier box office weeekends of the year. Occupying the No. 7 spot at the box office, the film proved no match for easily digestable fare like "Breaking Dawn: Part 2" and "Skyfall," which dominated the top spots.
"Killing Them Softly" was also drowned out by awards season front-runners "Lincoln" and "Life of Pi" and family-friendly flicks like "Rise of the Guardians" and "Wreck-It Ralph."
The crime drama marks one of the worst film debuts in Brad Pitt's career. Aside from films like the 1993 crime drama "Kalifornia," Pitt has starred in few flops. Since his breakout role in the 1991 black comedy "Thelma and Louise," the actor has been almost a sure box office bet, carrying profitable films like "Interview with the Vampire," "Oceans Eleven" and "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button."
Still, all hope is not lost for Pitt's marketabililty. "Killing Them Softly" could easily follow the same path as Pitt's films "Fight Club" and "Snatch": Both projects were only modestly successful at the box office but went on to attain cult status and home viewing revenue.
"Killing Them Softly" director Andrew Dominik's last film,"The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford," also starring Pitt, pulled in a mere $3 million domestically but has been widely regarded by critics as an under-appreciated gem.
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It's too soon to say whether "Killing Them Softly" will find critical redemption. Though some critics found the film preachy and laden with too much cultural commentary others praised certain aspects of the stylized drama.
"The movie is more concerned with conjuring an aura of meaningfulness than with actually meaning anything," wrote A.O. Scott of the New York Times.
Todd McCarthy of the Hollywood Reporter offered a contrasting view of the film.
"A juicy, bloody, grimy and profane crime drama that amply satisfies as a deep-dish genre piece," McCarthy said. "'Killing Them Softly' rather insistently also wants to be something more."
It's possible that the film, like the similarly themed "In Bruges" and "Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels," will gradually generate a following. Furthermore, next weekend's releases include "Cheerful Weather for a Wedding" and a slew of artful indies that the film could easily compete with.
Set in 2008 in a post-Katrina New Orleans, "Killing Them Softly" centers on the aftermath of a high-stakes poker game robbery. The film, based on the 1974 novel "Cogan's Trade" by George V. Higgins, stars Ray Liotta, Richard Jenkins, James Gandolfini and Scott McNairy.