By Forrest Hartman
Killing Them Softly
Rated R for violence, sexual references, pervasive language, and some drug use
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray, digital download and on demand
With “Killing Them Softly,” writer-director Andrew Dominik delivers a fascinating crime drama that is both a standard-order thriller and a critique of the American financial system. Based on novelist George V. Higgins’ 1974 novel “Cogan’s Trade,” the film centers on a hitman (Brad Pitt) who is charged with offing the guys that robbed a mob-sponsored poker game.
This premise is relatively simple, but Dominik creates complexity by setting the story against the 2008 presidential race between Barack Obama and John McCain. Frequently, the director cuts to real-life news clips referencing America’s economic crisis, inviting comparisons between the above-board economy and that controlled by organized crime.
The political commentary is interesting, and it helps set the film apart, but the cast is the best part of the feature. Pitt is fantastic as a calculating, ruthless assassin who does whatever it takes to get the job done. He gets equally strong supporting work from Ray Liotta, James Gandolfini and Richard Jenkins, all playing fellow mobsters.
Dominik excels in crafting a gritty atmosphere that’s reminiscent of great mob movies like “Goodfellas.” Unfortunately, he also allows the film to bog down in talky sections that wander into unnecessary territory. Because of this, the project isn’t a complete success, but its good points easily outweigh the bad.
DVD and Blu-ray extras include deleted scenes and a making-of featurette.