In a 2008 New Orleans, still reeling from the effects of the flood and pounded again by the recently toppled economy, a low level gangster (Vince Curatola) and his two bungling associates (Scoot McNairy, Ben Mendelsohn) knock of a local card game run by another opportunistic lowlife (Ray Liotta). Called in to clean up the mess is Jackie Cogan (Brad Pitt), a cool as ice, slightly melancholic mob assassin. Andrew Dominik's "Killing Them Softly" opens with a pulse pounding robbery before settling down for a measured, talky, and brutal film not unlike his "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford", which also featured Pitt and a similarly beautiful palette of saturated colors. Pitt has great presence, delivering another memorable performance, although two key sequences, both involving intimidation speeches set in bars, simply do not work. The second of which is a culmination of the 2008 election sound blurbs heard throughout the film, and delivered in the form of a tired monologue involving Thomas Jefferson's slave ownership and how America is not the great collective as that year's presidential victor purported it to be. On other fronts, it is very welcomed to see James Gandolfini as a one of Pitt's colleagues, who is essentially playing another version of Tony Soprano-depressed, personally engaging, quick tempered,--all and all a hot mess. It is also nice to see Gandolfini's TV costar Curatola in a fine supporting role, and nice work is also given by Richard Jenkins, Liotta, and McNairy. "Killing Them Softly" is based on a 1974 novel by George V. Higgins entitled Cogan's Trade, published in 1974, and the film clearly wants to be set in that era. Instead, Dominik fights that urge to incorporate unnecessary, obvious, and forced comment on present day corporate America which is to the detriment of his otherwise excellent film.
The scene with Pitt and Gandolfini begins at 00:50