In the five years since its release, “The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford” has become an unlike but entirely deserving cult classic. Now Brad Pitt has reteamed with his former director, Andrew Dominik, to adapt George V. Higgins’ 70s era novel “Cogan’s Trade” as the 2008-set Recession drama “Killing Them Softly.”
Here are your five reasons to see “Killing Them Softly.”
Pitt has become what I like to call a “secret great actor.” Rarely is he anything but superb—and “Killing Them Softly” is no exception—but what people think of most when it comes to Pitt is his celebrity status and someone who is more famous for being famous than for their talent. Here, like in “The Assassination of Jesse James,” Pitt turns in standout work that deserves more consideration than we’re inclined to give someone as well-known.
It Wears Its Heart On Its Sleeve
The main complaint you’ll see if you read reviews of “Killing Them Softly” is that the parallels to the 2008 financial collapse are too on-the-nose. While an unfortunately valid point, the movie’s political agenda at times can feel refreshing. When was the last time a film starring one of Hollywood’s biggest stars not only made you think about something going on right here, right now, but also had something to say about it? Andrew Dominik is clearly mad as hell, and his film leaves no doubt in the viewers mind to hint otherwise.
The “Killing” Isn’t That Soft
One sequence in particular will be worth discussing immediately after, but since it’s a spoiler, I won’t mention to details here. Let’s just say a character eats it in way that’s more beautiful than 99 percent of the scenes you’ll see at the theater this year.
George V. Higgins
What does work delightfully well is Dominik’s evocation of the world of author George V. Higgins, the man behind the phenomenal “The Friends of Eddie Coyle.” When Dominik sticks to the chatty conversations between low-lifes and filters them through his beautiful cinematic lens, what’s left is the making of a modern classic. This is probably best realized in the conversations between Pitt’s Jackie Cogan and Richard Jenkins’ Driver. Both actors have such an uncanny ability to deliver smart and fresh dialogue in a way that makes the material seem even smarter and fresher.
The Final Line
Just when you’re beginning to question whether or not Dominik actually has something to say instead of just pointing out obvious parallels, Pitt delivers a devastating monologue, which seals the deal and makes for one explosive ending.