In Killing Them Softly, writer-director Andrew Dominik (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford) updates the setting of George V. Higgins’ 1974 Boston-set novel Cogan’s Trade to Louisiana in the weeks preceding the 2008 U.S. presidential election. When a mob-controlled game is held up, suspicion falls on the unfortunately innocent Markie (Ray Liotta). Hit man Jackie Cogan (Brad Pitt) is drafted in to deal with this disruption to business, but due to his friendship with Markie and his aversion to killing people he knows, he subcontracts the job to colleague Mickey (James Gandolfini), who turns out to be well past his best, drinking heavily and addicted to prostitutes.
The backdrop of the financial crisis gives the film a furious political edge as both the characters and the candidates often seen in the background continually shift blame and responsibility. Filled with outstanding performances, it’s one of the films of the year, once again confirming Dominik as a major, if rarely seen, talent. (Notes by Kevin Coyne.)