Killing Them Softly

Rated 3.0

When two small-time hoods (Scoot McNairy, Ben Mendelsohn) hold up a mob poker game, an out-of-town enforcer (Brad Pitt) is brought in to mete out appropriate punishment. Writer-director Andrew Dominik updates George V. Higgins' novel Cogan's Trade from the 1970s to the 2008 financial crisis, with pronouncements from Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama streaming like mood music from every TV and radio, a counterpoint to the violent action in the foreground. Dominik overdoes the pseudo-political deep think—but then, he overdoes everything. The title is ironic; nobody is killed softly here—one execution plays in agonizing slow motion that seems to last 10 minutes. Still, it's repellently fascinating, like watching a snake eat a rat. Richard Jenkins, Ray Liotta and James Gandolfini round out the hard-boiled cast. J.L.