Adaptation of George V Higgins’s 1970s crime novel Cogan’s Trade
This adaptation of George V Higgins’s 1970s crime novel Cogan’s Trade drags the book’s down-and-dirty story of poker games, petty criminals and the mob forward to 2008. But it keeps that decade’s crumbling, end-of-the-world look in its near-apocalyptic New Orleans setting and its commitment to entertaining American cinema.
Two penniless young crims, Frankie and Russell, shoot up a backroom poker game run by Markie (Liotta). As quick as you can say ‘naive’, they have a mob fixer, Jackie (Pitt), on their tail, who hires an assassin, Mickey (Gandolfini), to do his dirty work.
It’s all defiantly male, but Killing Them Softly is also anti-macho in presenting the world of gangsters as a chaotic show undermined by human fallibility. The film’s occasional bursts of violence are tempered by such moments as a character sobbing and vomiting after a beating.
Writer-director Andrew Dominik lays it on a little thick, both the state-of-the-nation nods and the idea that this grimy noir is a metaphor for sickness in the financial sector. But, those niggles aside, it’s a cracking piece of storytelling with a restrained balance of laid-back chat and canny visual outbursts – and it has a delicious thread of gallows humour. Massively pleasurable and just smart enough.