When did Brad Pitt become such a good actor? He nailed it in “Moneyball” and got an Oscar nomination. As Cogan, a literate hit man in Andrew Dominick’s “Killing Them Softly,” he’s magic, a real old fashioned leading man who’s integrated character actor choices into his repetoire.
Cogan doesn’t even come into the movie right away; he’s preceded by Scoot McNairy, in a Best Supporting Actor worthy performance and several other really terrific turns by Ray Liotta, Vince Curatola, and Ben Mendelson. They are each gifted with remarkable, quotable dialogue that will be memorable.
This is The Weinstein Company’s third entry here in Cannes so far, making them three for three with “Lawless” and “The Sapphires.” Not to mention their screening last night of footage from three more films that look great: “The Master,” “The Silver Linings Playbook,” and “Django Unchained.” This should be some wild fall season from Harvey Weinstein, who’s back in form with a vengeance.
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Set against the 2008 election and the rapidly growing recession, “Killing Them Softly”– while violent–is a thinking man’s crime story. Cogan delivers the final line, destined to be as much of a classic as the film: “America isn’t a country, it’s a business.”
And business it is, as the hold up of a gangsters’ card game goes wrong, angers the wrong modern outlaws, and triggers a series of “hits” that come to involve Pitt and a very amusing James Gandolfini (as a hit man who’s more interested in his own hedonism than completing his job) and Richard Jenkins as a new kind of corporate stooge.
Gandolfini once joked that every time he was in a movie with Brad Pitt it was a failure and he was Pitt’s bad luck charm. No more.