"Killing Them Softly": 3.5 out of 5 stars

Andrew Dominik reaches a brilliant equilibrium of sick comedy and vulgar violence in his screenplay for “Killing Them Softly,” which is an adaptation of George Higgins’ novel "Cogan’s Trade." The composition and cinematography are absolutely exceptional, and the film is beautifully directed. The only lacking element in this film was the anticlimactic plot — every scene was a setup for a disappointing final 10 seconds.

In late 2008 in the slums of New Orleans, the delicate economy relies on the mob’s control of the city and its money. Several years earlier, Markie Trattman (Ray Liotta) had destroyed that balance and crashed the economy with a creative scheme to rob his buddies’ card game. Now the heist goes down yet again — this time, Johnny Amato (Vincent Curatola) hires two slum drug addicts to do the job and frame Markie. The resulting manhunt is hilariously explicit and brutal.

The cast is an adequate redemption from the plot, featuring a group of incredibly talented actors who seem right at home in their characters. Brad Pitt plays Jackie Cogan, the hit man hired to take care of the men who robbed the mobsters, and is very in his element. Down to his tinted aviators and conversation about preferred methods of murder, Pitt completes yet another testimony to his astonishing acting skills in this film.

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