Ian Crouch uses the new film Killing Them Softly, an adaptation of George Higgins novel, Cogan's Trade, to ponder the difficulties of rendering a book on the big screen:
Readers are certainly prone to outrage about any number of cinematic crimes, real and imagined, committed against their favorite books, yet the most common complaint centers on a movie’s manipulation of a novel’s plot. Change the story and piss a lot of people off. What can we say, then, of "Killing Them Softly," which is true to the novel’s narrative but somehow false to its spirit?
Crouch holds that Higgins' dialogue-driven novel means that interpreting it for film has "less to do with what is taken from or left out of the novel than what is added" – and that's where the problems begin:
In "Killing Them Softly," Dominik’s additions come in the form of visual flair: slow-motion gun fire; an extended scene involving a trippy heroin haze; lingering bouts of frightening and loud physical violence; and several heavy-thumbed soundtrack intrusions, including what is essentially a mini-music video for Johnny Cash’s “The Man Comes Around,” a harrowing and, in this context, too-apt song that nearly swamps the proceedings to become the most memorable thing about the movie.