Brad Pitt Takes Audiences to the Underworld in "Killing Them Softly"

Photo Credit: The Weinstein Company
December 12th, 2012

Brad Pitt Takes Audiences to the Underworld in "Killing Them Softly"

-- Brad Pitt has certainly come a long way from the young actor who once starred as a one-night stand for Geena Davis' character in "Thelma & Louise." Over the course of the last twenty years, Pitt has worked diligently to define himself as a successful and reliable leading man amongst the crowded backdrop of Hollywood. During that period, he has taken on an ever-evolving array of film roles that have made audiences cry, laugh, and even a little frightened, as in the case of "Fight Club." Whether that part is a comedy or drama, fans are always sure that he can play it uniquely.

Over the years, Pitt has also developed somewhat of a reputation for being quite willing to alter his looks to whatever may be required for a role. This willingness was once again recently put to the test when he accepted the role of an enforcer who is hired to track down a couple of crooks who were foolish enough to take down a poker game that just happened to be protected by the Mob. "Killing Them Softly" is the latest film release from Andrew Dominik.

Once again, Pitt has taken on a film that departs from what you might typically expect. Featuring a slant towards the psychopathic, "Killing Them Softly" makes no attempt to shy away from violence as it delves into the gritty underworld of the Mob and portrays Pitt as a somewhat greasy enforcer who doesn't retreat from the action when the situation calls for it. The film also stars James Gandolfini and Ray Liotta. This has been the first directorial work of Dominik since "The Assassination of Jesse James."

Dominik and Pitt are certainly not new to the idea of working together. Pitt and the director also worked together on "Jesse James," in which Pitt played the role of James. They will also be working together on a planned biopic about Marilyn Monroe, "Blonde." This is also not the first time Pitt has teamed up with James Gandolfini in a film project. In fact, the two have worked together in two other film projects.

"Killing Them Softly" is adapted from a crime novel by George Higgins. A crime novelist and former assistant U.S. attorney from Boston, Higgins developed a reputation for penning books heavy with dialogue that seemed ideal for the big screen. The screenplay was adapted by Dominik from Higgins' original novel, which was released in 1974. Dominik paid special attention to retaining the original feel of the novel's dialogue even though it was necessary to change the actual era in which the story occurs. As a result, fans will notice that the film manages to retain Higgins' style. It is actually the characters, as well as their words, that drive the heart of the story. By retaining the heart of the novel's language, Dominik also manages to keep the characters true to their original scruffy form.

Pitt's character in the film, Cogan, is somewhat of a problem solver. After the economy takes a nosedive in 2008, it appears that even the Mob needs a little extra protection for their illicit investments. That protection comes in the form of Cogan, who is set on the trail of a couple of wise guys who turn out not to be so wise when they knock over a card game run by the Mob.

The setting of the film is handled with precision by Dominik and cinematographer Greig Fraser. While "Killing Them Softly" is not the most picturesque film you will ever see, the desolation of the Boston underworld is portrayed exceptionally well. The reality of the film is further enhanced by the use of CNN clips and radio sound bites of George W. Bush at the height of the 2008 financial crisis.

Filming for the movie actually took place in New Orleans, a city once called home by the Pitt-Jolie film and a city that has certainly seen its fair share of destruction. The gutted look of the city proves to be the perfect backdrop for the gritty and ruined look that Dominik desired for "Killing Them Softly." The film's settings reveal a grimness that is surprisingly poetic and the perfect foil for violence that is striking in its quiet brutality. As if in an effort to apologize for the somberness that is portrayed through much of the film, the mood is occasionally lightened with the ironic use of pop music and flashbacks that are surprisingly playful. These touches all combine together to add a realistic touch to Higgins' original portrayal of a moral universe that is both barren and dingy.