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'Killing Them Softly' review - Cannes Film Festival 2012

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Released on Tuesday, May 22 2012

Director: Andrew Dominik; Screenwriter: Andrew Dominik; Starring: Brad Pitt, Scoot McNairy, Ben Mendelsohn, James Gandolfini, Vincent Curatola


"America's not a country, it's a business. Now f**king pay me." Beating home its point with tough, stylish impact right to the very end, Andrew Dominik's payback crime drama takes a point-blank shot at the 2008 financial meltdown via an economic collapse in the mob world.

Following up their gorgeously eerie Western epic The Assassination Of Jesse James with this adaptation of 1974 bestseller Cogan's Trade, writer/director Dominik and producer/star Pitt confirm themselves as a striking filmmaking force.

But weirdly, instead of another great American epic, Killing Them Softly turns out to be a long short-movie built on a series of tough, sardonic dialogue scenes relished by a terrific ensemble. It's a much better hitman movie than an economic critique. In fact, Dominik calls it a comedy.

The talented Scoot NcNairy (Monsters) and Ben Mendelsohn (Animal Kingdom) are excellent as the lowlife punks who stick up gangster Ray Liotta's gambling den, forcing mob accountant Richard Jenkins to hire enforcer Brad Pitt to balance the books.

Pitt is efficiently, effortlessly cool as Jackie Cogan, a man with a job to do who becomes quietly exasperated by colleagues who can't do theirs. James Gandolfini shows up a boozy wreck who used to be one of Cogan's best hitmen and Mendelsohn's skaghead Aussie is a wonderfully vulgar, scuzzy, funny creation.

As satire goes, it's a sawn-down shotgun - just about every other scene has Obama yakking on a TV in the background. No question, you can't help wishing for more bang from your buck. But right from the snap-edited opening credits, Dominik looks more at home flexing his stylistics. Cranking down into slow-motion for a kill sequence of shattered glass, pirouetting shell cases and globules of gore, he drops us into Mendelsohn's heroin haze by fading in and out with trippy first-person blurs.

When it comes to the violence - much of it aimed at poor Ray Liotta - Dominik really puts his money where his mouth is. It's hard to think of a beating filmed with such staggeringly brutal impact, as Ray Liotta takes a horrific thrashing that's hard to stomach. Especially when parts of Liotta end up on his attacker's shoes.


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