The Films of Andrew Dominik: An Introduction

     August 3, 2014


Andrew Dominik is sort of an enigma.  He doesn’t self promote.  He doesn’t suffer fools.  Some people find him rude, while others regard him as honest and matter-of-fact.  He doesn’t give canned answers to journalists.  He’s not a pushover in the studio environment.  He’s successfully positioned himself so that when you think of him, you think of his work.  In a professional context I’ve spoken to him several times at length on the phone or via email (this was some time ago, I was an assistant to one of his reps in 2007) and he’s still a mystery to me in many ways.  When someone mentions him, my mind almost never moves to a memory or recollection those days.  Instead, I immediately go to the final half hour of The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and how that stretch of film inspires me more than almost any other movie I know.

Hit the jump for more on this fascinating filmmaker.

killing-them-softly-movie-image-brad-pitt-richard-jenkinsHis films have yet to make much money, at least in their initial box office release windows.  This is a phenomenon I simultaneously understand but do not “get.”  They are all thrilling both in content and in execution.  They are thoughtful.  They stick with you.  At least one of them, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, is a bona-fide masterpiece.  And yet they tend to go unrecognized at the moments when it counts commercially (despite Jesse James’ Oscar nominations for both Casey Affleck and cinematographer Roger Deakins).

His first feature, Chopper, was highly regarded, but its biggest success (beyond its own artistry) was to serve as a calling card for the filmmaker.  Jesse James was, upon its release, recognized as a classic by some and derided for its pace and length by others.  The film has recently seen a bit of a revival (with pieces like this by Kris Tapley at HitFix and a Twitter account that as amassed almost 36,000 followers).  It can take time for a 160-minute mediation on celebrity, the choices that define who we are, and how we are remembered to take hold.  The word on Killing Them Softly was so sour upon its release that even I stayed away, fearing a movie so bad it would retroactively kill my enjoyment of Dominik’s prior work.  When I finally took the plunge on Blu-ray I found it to be a remarkably funny, violent and on-the-nose microcosm of American capitalism.  Perhaps one day that film will find its own audience (though it’s one of only eight movies to ever receive an “F” CinemaScore, so that may take some time).

Starting next week, I’ll be taking an in-depth look at the films of Andrew Dominik in their order of release starting with 2000′s Chopper. I’ll contrast their merits (and occasionally their demerits) with their current perception and how they were received at the time of release.  I’ll also discuss in a broader sense why I find Dominik to be one of the most compelling filmmakers of our time.  I hope you join me.  And, more than that, I hope these articles cause you to form your own opinion regardless of whether you’ve seen his films before or are watching them for the first time.


  • MJ

    I don’t suffer fools easily either, which is why after watching that incredible boring Jesse James movie of his, I don’t think I will be watching another one of his overly pretentious and boring films again anytime soon…especially now given that you are now hinting the the guy is kind of an a-hole.

    • Evan Dickson

      He’s not an a-hole. He’s just no bullshit.

      • MJ

        OK, I stand corrected on that point. Thanks.

    • GrimReaper07

      I completely disagree. I think it’s easily one of the best movies of the past couple of decades. Killing Them Softly was a bit of a letdown though.

    • JM

      Andrew’s very blunt and to the point. As Evan said, he’s as no bullshit a kind of guy as you’ll meet. But he’s not an asshole. He’s actually very funny and charming, but he’s always going to be direct with you. He’s a good person though.

  • bidi

    man, the news has been slow lately

    • MJ

      You are joking, right? Comicon was last week, and Collider had about 10 articles per day?

      • bidi

        only kind of joking. just wondering why this post was necessary. i like Assassination as much as the next guy, but i’m just confused by this whole retrospective into this guy’s career

      • Adam Chitwood

        We’re going to be doing more feature-oriented content on a regular basis here in the near future, and filmmaker retrospectives will be a part of this. Evan’s kicking off this first one with Dominik, which I’m really looking forward to reading.

      • Thomas K.

        Looking forward to these… I’m guessing Fincher shouldn’t be far behind? Well, hoping, at least.

      • MJ

        This is interesting — looking forward to this new series, even if this particular director is not one I am too excited about.


      • stylus59

        Andrew Dominik is such a weak place to start though. I would much prefer a retrospective on Richard Linklater or David Fincher to start it with a bang.

      • WockerDaw

        No need to start off with a bang. Richard Linklater and David Fincher have all the publicity in the world right now thanks to their 2014 movies.
        Nice to see a little retrospective on someone that not everyone is immediately familiar with.

      • stylus59

        I’m talking business here. If they want their readership to get interested in a new ‘segment’, they gotta stick to someone well-known, especially that they even acknowledge this as a fan-driven website.

      • WockerDaw

        Well I’m interested. And judging by the comments, I’m not a huge fan of most of Collider’s readership…

      • lord jim

        jesus, who would know that people who are interested in movies would be so narrow minded?most people who visit movie sites are interested in movies, and not in fanboy masturbation, there are enough sites for that.

  • Evansucks

    Jesse James inspires you? To do what? Be a mediocre film blogger?

    • Cyberpunk14

      Good Films are not supposed to be for all kinds of people.
      And Brad and Plan B his production company knows that.

    • WockerDaw

      Are you alone when you troll, or are there a group of people standing behind you giggling at how clever you are?
      Not as annoyed by this anymore, just curious…

  • Josh Harding

    The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is a phenomenal movie, and is also, in my humble opinion, one of the best photographed films of all time. I greatly look forward to reading your retrospective on Dominik and his work, Evan. Does anyone know if his movie about Marilyn Monroe’s life (I believe it’s supposed to be called Blonde) is happening? I haven’t heard anything about it for a while….

    • MJ

      Certainly it looked great. But if I don’t give a flying F about any of the characters, then I can’t get into the movie…is it really too much to ask a director to give me a reason to care about what I am seeing on the screen?

    • computerbenefit

      Yeah, I think the Marilyn Monroe film is definitely happening. Brad Pitt’s company is producing it and Jessica Chastain is starring. Let’s hope it works out.

    • JM

      Blonde is happening. Plan B is producing it and they’ve been selling foreign distribution rights to help finance it. Canadian distribution rights were recently sold. It’s been pre-sold in a number of other territories already. Wild Bunch are handling world-wide sales.

  • HG2012

    killing them softly is one of the most boring movies i have ever seen

  • Thomas K.

    I’m not going to lie…. I might of had to look up the phrase “Suffer Fools.”

  • Thomas K.

    Also, I never understood the need for a 10-Word Title to a Film.

    • Quapraud

      It fits the tone of the era it was set. As if it were a headline in the days news.

      • Thomas K.

        Ahhh… I see, I see.

    • JM

      It’s the name of the historical novel the film is based on.

  • chop chop

    Chopper is an amazing film…..its shame most Americans have never heard of it or even know mark chopper Reid was. Could even do a sequel as a lot more has happend since it was filmed and was revealed now that hes dead.

  • Slick Rick

    As a film buff, I’m proud to say I went to see “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” twice on the big screen when it got released 7 years ago. Roger Deakins should have won the Oscar for its cinematography. Second best film of the year after “There Will Be Blood”, although “American Gangster” wins on repeated viewings.
    “Killing Them Softly” was an entire different beast. Didn’t like it the first time around. Would have liked to see it on the big screen, though. Second and third time on the DVD player grew upon me. It got better and better. Always thought movies like this and “The American” prove that big stars like George Clooney and Brad Pitt can prevail out of the mainstream from time to time.

  • pandapool

    I must be one of the few people on the planet that actually enjoyed ‘Killing Them Softly.’ I thought it was great. Still need to watch ‘Jesse James’ though.

    • NathanArizona

      Yeah, Killing Them Softly was great. It will find its audience in time. Check out Jesse James as soon as you can, it’s gotta be one of my favorite films, it’s hypnotic and beautiful and a film I discover new things to love about it every time I watch it.

      • pandapool

        Thanks, will do. It’s on the ol’ Pirate Bay queue.

  • randommale7

    I’m a big fan of Dominik’s films, Jesse James is a masterpiece, Chopper an Australian classic and Killing Them Softly was great and was better received outside of America though I can understand why it’s very polarising with viewers.

  • Colin

    I felt that Killing Them Softly and Chopper were companion pieces, maybe because of their dark comedic tone. They both were great.

    • lord jim

      chopper is rather a companion piece to refn´s bronson.

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  • JM

    I think it’s really cool you’re doing this, Evan. I look forward to your pieces on the rest of his work. Andrew is phenomenally talented and wicked smart, as you surely know from your experience with him, and he deserves to be shoved into the conversation with some of the guys that are being mentioned in this comments section as being the great filmmakers of this generation. So bravo to you for that.

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  • jay

    they need to do a remastered version of the blu ray because it is terrible. the transfer completely ruins Roger Deakins beautiful work.

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