Killing Them Softly

Killing Them Softly Credit: The Weinstein Company/courtesy Everett Collection

Brad Pitt is on a roll – Moneyball, The Tree of Life, Inglourious Basterds, Burn After Reading. He’s a movie star with real acting chops, on full display in Killing Them Softly. Pitt plays Cogan, a hit man brought in to clean up the mess when two idiots, Frankie (Scoot McNairy) and Russell (Ben Mendelsohn), rob a card game run by mobster Markie (Ray Liotta). Cogan is hired to exact gory punishment, which he negotiates with his Mob contact (a wryly funny Richard Jenkins) like a bloodless business deal. Writer-director Andrew Dominik, who collaborated richly with Pitt on 2007’s The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, updates George V. Higgins’ Boston-based 1974 novel, Cogan’s Trade, by setting it in Louisiana right before the 2008 presidential election. Murder is just another day at the office for corporate America, and the film hammers that theme home with diminishing returns. But the acting is aces, especially Pitt mixing it up with the superb James Gandolfini, as an assassin losing his game to hooch and hookers. Hang on. They make this movie a potently nasty provocation.