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Killing Them Softly - Review

Killing Them Softly

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

BRAD Pitt’s second film with The Assassination of Jesse James director Andrew Dominik is a stylish gangster drama that also has its finger on the pulse of current political concerns.

Set against the backdrop of the global economic meltdown and, in particular, America’s role and subsequent lack of accountability, the film offers a darkly comic look at the situation as seen through the eyes of a set of struggling criminals.

The story picks up as a mid-level chief Johnny (ex-Sopranos man Vincent Curatola) employs two hoods (Scoot McNairy and Ben Mendelsohn) to take down a gambling game run by Markie (Ray Liotta), knowing full well that the blame will fall back on Markie for a past indiscretion.

Enter cynical hit organiser Jackie Cogan (Pitt) who leaves no stone unturned in his subsequent investigation and clean-up operation.

While certainly operating in the shadow of real world problems, Dominik’s film, based on George V. Higgins ‘s ’70s set book Cogan’s Trade, doesn’t overplay its political agenda and knows how to tell a good crime yarn while also refusing to pull its punches.

The pace is quite often slow and self-indulgent with several conversations allowed to run and run (especially those between Pitt and James Gandolfini).

But when it explodes, the violence is breathtakingly brutal as if to underline the desperation and anger inherent in today’s world (and even more so among its criminal fraternity).

The conversations, meanwhile, are as rich with witty banter as they are with punishing repercussions. Pitt’s wily Cogan, in particular, is a no-nonsense doer who is driven by a desire to get paid (a metaphor for the business that Dominik suggests America has now become).

Pitt is excellent in the lead role, displaying cold-blooded intensity with free-flowing gangster cool, but there’s excellent support from McNairy and Mendelsohn (respectively hapless and creepy), Liotta, Richard Jenkins and Gandolfini (albeit occupying the film’s least satisfying role).

Killing Them Softly won’t be to everyone’s taste given its talky tendency and rampant cynicism. But even if it falls short of the high standards set by Pitt and Dominik on their first partnership, it’s a class act that entertains and has something to say. The final scene is a beauty too.

Certificate: 18
Running time: 97mins
UK Release Date: September 21, 2012