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"Killing Them Softly" is the third film from writer and director Andrew Dominik, and it's his second to make with Brad Pitt starring.Their first one together, "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford," is nearly a masterpiece - a deeply fascinating and beautiful character study peeling back the layers of a historical icon.
In the new film Pitt is once again playing a quietly intimidating sociopath for Dominik. He's Jackie Cogan, a fixer mobsters hire to clean up messes, usually with blood. Basically, Jackie is "The Man" Johnny Cash sang about.
When two drug addicts knock over a high-stakes card game, Jackie is called in to find them and restore order.
There's nothing particularly novel about that storyline, but Dominik sets his movie in 2008 and works to draw parallels between thugs on the street, and criminals on Wall Street who caused the economic collapse. We get the idea the way these guys nonchalantly discuss robbery and murder isn't much different than CEOs talking about raiding pensions, betting on failures, or firing people.
Dominik works too hard to make that point with seemingly everyone always watching and listening to news, but it's still a provocative idea with a great payoff in the end, so to speak.
The excellent cast includes Richard Jenkins as a mob messenger and James Gandolfini as a hit-man on the verge of collapse.
Not all of Dominik's decisions are good ones here, and it's certainly not as good as "Jesse James," but his effort to do something different with the crime drama genre is stylish and interesting, even when it stumbles.
EPPLER'S RATING: * * * 1/2
Out of five stars