Killing Them Softly

Killing Them Softly Information

Killing Them Softly is a 2012 American neo-noir crime film directed by Andrew Dominik and starring Brad Pitt, based on the 1974 novel Cogan's Trade by George V. Higgins. On May 22, 2012, the film premiered in competition for the Palme d'Or at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival, receiving positive early reviews.


Markie Trattman (Ray Liotta), the proprietor of a local criminal poker ring, is revealed to have previously orchestrated an inside job by paying two men to rob his poker room to collect insurance money. He holds up under rough questioning by the hitman Dillon (Sam Shepard), though he later openly admits his involvement to various criminal figures; he suffers no retaliation.

In the fall of 2008, amidst both the American financial crisis and that year's presidential election campaign, a man named Johnny "Squirrel" Amato (Vincent Curatola) plans to rob Markie's next poker game. He anticipates that the Mafia will automatically blame Markie for the heist. He enlists Frankie (Scoot McNairy), a nave, former business associate, and Russell (Ben Mendelsohn), an unstable heroin addict who is stealing purebred dogs for money, to perform the robbery. Upon completing the crime, Russell travels to Florida to sell the purebred dogs.

Driver (Richard Jenkins), an emissary for the Mafia, converses with an acquaintance of Dillon, a hitman named Jackie Cogan (Brad Pitt). Although Jackie understands Markie was uninvolved in the aforementioned heist, he believes Markie should be murdered in order to restore the mobsters' confidence in the local gambling scene. While in Florida, Russell inadvertently informs a man named Kenny Gill (Slaine) of his involvement in the heist while trying to recruit him as a dealer. Kenny informs Jackie, who implicates Russell, Frankie, and Squirrel as the true perpetrators.

Jackie brings in another hitman-- Mickey Fallon (James Gandolfini), on parole in New York-- to kill Squirrel, as Squirrel is acquainted with Jackie. Jackie explains to Driver how he prefers "killing them softly" -- shooting his victims without warning, giving them no opportunity to experience fear or despair-- and that his acquaintance with Squirrel risks complicating this approach.

Jackie kills Markie in a drive-by shooting, but soon becomes frustrated with Mickey's flagrant lechery and alcoholism. He convinces Driver to arrange Mickey's arrest before the job has been completed.

Russell is arrested on a drug possession charge; meanwhile, Jackie confronts Frankie and convinces him to trade Squirrel's whereabouts for his life. Jackie has Frankie drive him to Squirrel; upon reaching Squirrel's apartment complex, he dispatches both Squirrel and Frankie.

On the night of the 2008 presidential election, Jackie meets with Driver to collect his fee. When Driver refuses to pay Jackie in full, he angrily demands payment, declaring emphatically that "America's not a country... It's just a business" in conclusion to a cynical monologue delivered about the 2008 election, and the United States in general.



Killing Them Softly is based on the 1974 novel Cogan's Trade by George V. Higgins, best selling novelist of crime novels, including The Friends of Eddie Coyle (novel). Cogan's Trade, like Higgins' other novels, takes place in Boston; although filmed in New Orleans area, characters in Killing Them Softly make several references to Boston area suburbs from the original novel. The film was written and directed by Andrew Dominik, who chose to update the setting of the story, saying "as I started adapting it, it was the story of an economic crisis, and it was an economic crisis in an economy that was funded by gambling"?and the crisis occurred due to a failure in regulation. It just seemed to have something that you couldn't ignore."

The project was first announced in November 2010 when Brad Pitt was reported to be in talks for the lead role. Pitt joined the project the following month, and production was scheduled to begin in Louisiana in March 2011. Additional roles were cast in early 2011. Dominik asked Pitt if he was interested in the role via a text message; he replied "yes" and the matter was settled over half an hour.

Pre-production began in Louisiana in January 2011, and filming was underway by March 2011.

According to Garret Dillahunt, the film's first cut was two-and-a-half hours long. Dillahunt, who had a cameo in the film, did not make the final cut.


Killing Them Softly was scheduled to premiere on September 21, 2012; however, the US release date was delayed until November 30, 2012, to avoid competing with The Master and to improve its chances for award nominations. The film kept its original release date in other parts of the world, with the somewhat unusual result where it opened in the UK and India more than two months before the US opening.

The Weinstein Company distributed the film in the United States and Canada.


Box office

Upon its opening weekend, Killing Them Softly grossed a domestic total of $6,812,900. As of February 4, 2013, the movie has made $14,947,716 domestically and $20,557,184 internationally, with a worldwide total of $37,470,591.

Critical response

Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a "fresh" rating of 76% based on reviews from 206 critics, and reports a rating average of 6.9 out of 10. At Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the film received an average score of 64% based on 42 reviews.

Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian gave the film 5 stars saying the film is a "compelling comment on economic bloodletting in the real world". Tim Robey of The Daily Telegraph gave the film 4 stars describing it as "bleakly electrifying". Total Film awarded it 3 stars calling it "tough, stylish, violent and studded with stars" but countered that it "doesn't quite get the job done".


Award Category Recipients and nominees Outcome
65th Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or Andrew Dominik

Home media

The film was released on March 26, 2013. The film was released in Australia earlier, on February 13, and on February 25 in the UK.

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