Brad Pitt leads a great cast in 'Killing Them Softly'

While the recessionary context is a bit overdone, the 'Killing Them Softly' features sharp dialogue and performances.

Melinda Sue Gordon/The Weinstein Company/AP
Brad Pitt and James Gandolfini (pictured) star in 'Killing Them Softly.'

Lovers of the crime novels of George V. Higgins will likely get a kick out of “Killing Them Softly,” a recession-era reworking of his “Cogan’s Trade” starring a (literally) bang-up cast that includes Brad Pitt as a cucumber-cool mob enforcer, Ray Liotta as a mob-protected card-game dealer, Richard Jenkins as a button-down mob go-between, and James Gandolfini as a hit man on the skids.

The recessionary context is a bit overdone – too many clips of George W. Bush and President Obama delivering pronouncements – and the conceit that crime is a business like any other business is timeworn. Also, the film’s violence quotient is, I think, a notch too high for its purposes.

But the dialogue is sharp and so are the performances. Andrew Dominik directed this neo-noir in a low-key comic style that’s alternately gritty and fancy. The gritty stuff is best. Grade: B+ (Rated R for violence, sexual references, pervasive language, and some drug use.)

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