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Killing Them Softly

by Kilian Melloy
Wednesday Mar 27, 2013
Killing Them Softly

New Zealand-born writer-director Andrew Dominick updates George V. Higgins' 1974 novel "Cogan's Trade" for a screen adaptation that bleeds style and breathes mood.

Dominick's film version is called "Killing Them Softly," and while setting and plot remain intact, Dominick drops the story into 2008 and the financial meltdown.

The national economy is going down in flames; so is that of Boston's seedy underworld, where a poker game robbery has scared off the clientele. Hit man Cogan (Brad Pitt) counsels killing Markey Trattman (Ray Liotta), a local gangster who, years before, had robbed one of his own games. Markey's not guilty this time, but Economics 101 dictates that confidence boosts commerce: Trattman's death will get the games going and the money flowing once again. The real culprits will also have to be quietly punished, of course, and the story's black comedy lies in the complications that arise as Cogan tries to tie up loose ends.

Like Elmore Leonard or Quentin Tarantino, Higgins (and Dominick) uses the scaffolding of illegal activity as a means for delving into the minds of his numbskull characters. Their banal-but-funny dialogue reveals simple ambitions (sex and status) they can't get legitimately. Cogan, smart and ethical in his way, seems like a Nobel laureate in comparison.

The DVD release offers a handful of deleted scenes and a featurette in which Dominick talks about how the story's basic premise resonated with the Great Recession. Recurring audio of the 2008's election speeches press the point a little too much, but it's a lovely use of serendipity. Buy this DVD and file it next to "Pulp Fiction" and "Get Shorty."

"Killing Them Softly"

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


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