Brad Pitt reunites with Australian director Andrew Dominik, maker of the superb western The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, for the brutally violent, darkly comic crime thriller Killing Them Softly.
The plot is based on the 1974 novel Cogan’s Trade by George V Higgins but the action has been updated to 2008, time of the banking crash and Obama’s election win, news of which buzzes in the background on TV screens as the story’s mobsters go about their grim trade.
Like a financial regulator appointed to sort out Wall Street, Pitt’s gangland enforcer, Jackie Cogan, gets called in to clear up the mess after a pair of scuzzy ex-cons (Scoot McNairy and Ben Mendelsohn) knock off a Mob-protected poker game.
To restore confidence and get the crime world’s wheels moving again, Jackie has to make an example not only of the robbers and the small-time crook (Vincent Curatola) who planned the heist, but also of their luckless patsy, the card game’s host, Markie Tratmann (Ray Liotta). ‘I see what you mean. The public angle,’ says Richard Jenkins’ besuited Mob middleman after Jackie spells things out for him.
Most of the movie is made up of chats like this one: meetings in cars and bars between Jackie and Jenkins’ Driver, between Jackie and the boozy, sex-obsessed out-of-town hit-man (James Gandolfini) he disastrously hires for one of the jobs, and between the addled robbers themselves, stick-up men so inept they wear yellow washing-up gloves for their heist. The dialogue is salty, stylised and beautifully performed. Yet the air of menace is never absent for long and when the violence comes it’s sudden and savage.
On general release from Friday 21st September.