Brad Pitt shines in recession crime caper Killing Them Softly

This post-financial crisis crime film is smart and nasty, with a political edge

LAST UPDATED AT 08:37 ON Fri 21 Sep 2012

What you need to know
American crime thriller Killing Them Softly is based on George V. Higgins's 1974 novel Cogan's Trade and directed by Andrew Dominik (Chopper, The Assassination of Jesse James).

Set in recession-hit modern-day New Orleans, the film stars Brad Pitt as hired killer Jackie Cogan, who is paid to investigate a heist at a high stakes, mob-controlled poker game.

The cast also features Ray Liotta (GoodFellas), James Gandolfini (Sopranos), Scoot McNairy (Monsters), Ben Mendelsohn (Animal Kingdom), and Sam Shepard (Black Hawk Down).

What the critics like
Dominik's outstanding Killing Them Softly has the rigour and poise of the great American crime pictures of the 1970s, says Robbie Collin in The Daily Telegraph.

The screenplay is "tough as beaten steel" and shot through with nihilistic humour. It's Dominik's third film, "but it has the lines and contours of a classic".

Dominik cleverly applies the anxieties of the financial crisis to the world of crime, says Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian. His immensely gripping and brutal world of recession-hit criminals is smart and nasty, with a political dimension. "Scenes are executed with flair and a regular supply of dialogue zingers".

It's a terrific actors' movie, says Dave Calhoun in Time Out. Everyone on screen puts in some of their best work, from "Mendelsohn's cocky and comic petty slimeball act to Gandolfini's turn as a past-it, booze-soaked killer with a sharp tongue". It's all "massively pleasurable".

What they don't like
This is a sub-par Pulp Fiction with art-house pretensions and a doctrinaire left-wing take on American mores, says Richard Corliss in Time. "The only thing that truly rewards your attendance is Pitt in another effortless star performance." · 

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