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Brad Pitt and director Andrew Dominik team again on Killing Them Softly, a tense tale of hard talk and murder

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Brad Pitt, not quite killing softly, in Killing Them Softly.

Brad Pitt, not quite killing softly, in Killing Them Softly.

Producer Brad Pitt and writer-director Andrew Dominik team up again after their critically acclaimed The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007), switching genres from western to crime—their source material is George V. Higgins's 1974 novel Cogan's Trade—but focusing again on the talk of hardened men. Pitt plays an enforcer hired to track down and kill two masked hoods who stuck up a mob-protected card game, and the lengthy dialogue scenes (featuring Richard Jenkins, James Gandolfini, Scoot McNairy, and Vincent Curatola) take full advantage of the book's meticulously re-created goon talk. The Louisiana locations are appropriately cruddy, and the occasional scenes of violence are frightening, visceral, and beautifully photographed. Dominik's only misstep is setting the story in September 2008, as Bush, Obama, and McCain react to the financial meltdown on TV, and inviting facile comparison to the underground economy. The financial forces working their way through these dive bars and cheap hotels are plenty to chew on.

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