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EW Movie Review: "Killing Them Softly"

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Brad Pitt plays a hitman for the mafia in the new crime thriller "Killing Them Softly". Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman filed the following review for NY1.

"Killing Them Softly" is a lurid and nasty little nihilistic hitman thriller, with an ingenuity that sneaks up on you. It’s the first movie directed by Andrew Dominik since "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford". Once again, he has cast Brad Pitt as a low-key, gimlet-eyed sociopath, and once again, the screen vibrates.

Pitt's tough guys haves a brawny physical fearlessness, but they draw their power from Pitt's intelligence, his quicksilver-cool awareness. In "Killing Them Softly", he’s menacingly good as Jackie Cogan, a mob enforcer who is called in to clean up the mess that follows an underworld card game robbery committed by two real bottom feeders.

On paper, there isn’t much to the plot of "Killing Them Softly". The real drama lies in how these outrageously talky lowlifes keep sizing each other up: the back-and-forth scuzziness, the obscenity dancing on the knife-edge of violence. This is Scorsese land, Tarantino land, David Mamet land and David Chase land, and so you've got to be damn good to play their game. Andrew Dominik, it turns out, is that good.

"Killing Them Softly" is mostly a loosely frazzled series of dialogues that play out in bars, cars, and apartment lairs, but the film is really a hypnotic series of power duels. Dominik plugs us into the moment, so that we're hanging on every word to figure out who's stupid but maybe also street-smart, and who's under whose thumb. One of the most captivating characters is James Gandolfini as Mickey, a hitman crony of Jackie's who gets called up from Florida.

"Killing Them Softly" is set in late 2008, during the economic collapse, and it says that the system is rigged, that the cutthroats we're watching are acting out the greedy, rotten impulses of the whole society. That’s an awfully grand indictment to balance on the backs of thieves and murderers. Yet "Killing Them Softly" makes it work. It's a mesmerizing tale of kill-or-be-killed capitalist desperation.

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