Killing Them Softly has seventieths feel, an overcast look through the calm soft focus of Greig Fraser's lensing as it connects some tense action with the very precarious position of the U.S. at that time. Definitely when it comes to how the latter events unfold into a momentous conclusion.
Scoot McNairy and Ben Mendelsohn are the appropriately smarmy underlings (Frankie and Russell) of local mobster Markie (Ray Liotta) set to rob card game he's arranged so he can claim culpability.
Of course, the scheme isn't quite realized when it comes to Markie and mob emissary Driver, effectively done by Richard Jenkins, brings in Pitt's Jackie Cogan, a hit-man, to find out what went awry and to clean things up. Jackie knows this would be right for an old colleague, an idle Mickey, a jaded James Gandolfini. The hard-edged mobster needs to be more proactive when it comes to getting the job done.
Affection for the antecedent is made clear by the very literary scripting that has a sound structure and handled adroitly by the Aussie helmer when it comes to orchestrating a variety of scenes. Ones that range from a heist to a soundtracked shooting slowed-up for effect and a few unexpected jolts.
In a relatively short running time the characters are hardly neglected by the filmmakers as they are given meaningful line readings. The association with the sonorous media reports on the current political and financial climate might seem a little unwieldy and could have been downplayed; still, a certain allegorical resonance ultimately proves advantageous.
Dominik certainly has the ensemble to capably render what Higgins did so pointedly through prose. His stylishness behind the camera allows for much adult entertainment with a less subtle Pitt (Moneyball,The Tree of Life) leading the way, but not diminishing the impact of his costars. McNairy and Mendelsohn (Animal Kingdom) are suitable low-lifes, differing in their like-ability, while Liotta and Jenkins (as noted) know how to groove their portraits in this genre. But, maybe the most memorable thing about an intensely articulate Killing Them Softly might be Gandolfini (remembered opposite Pitt and Julia Roberts in The Mexican) giving his Mickey a damaged dimension that would make Tony Soprano take notice.