Killing Them Softly is a film with something to say and can at times appear desperate to let you know that. On the face of it we have a fairly convention gangster scenario with Brad Pitt’s Jackie Cogan called in as enforcer to crack a few heads after a mob protected poker games gets rolled over. But while Cogan is controlled, professional and — most of all — in tune with his environment and the politics of his situation, those around him are anything but. Yet this isn’t the source of the film’s comedy, which is far darker than that. The violence contrasts between the deliberately over stylised to genuinely uncomfortable ultra-realism and Ray Liotta is superb as Markie Trattman on his journey from strongman to wounded beast.
Many will find the insertion of big politics heavy handed. Everywhere loud radio and TVs broadcasts chart the collapse of the US banking system and the simultaneous rise of Obama: All to inform a big closing speech from Pitt rubbishing Obama’s ideas on community to explain that America isn’t a country, but a collection of individuals ruled by corporations. The mob for whom he works has evolved into one such corporation and all — be they bankers or mobsters — decline in the face of the same disease.