Andrew Dominik's Killing Them Softly bears a lot of familiar organized crime hallmarks: Underground card games getting ransacked. Guys being roughed up indifferently. Wall-to-wall leather jackets and those amber-colored aviators only mob dudes seem to wear. Lots of terse talk and "this is America" declarations. Ray Liotta and James Gandolfini. But it also features Brad Pitt in a rare tough-guy role, as he reteams with his The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford director (along with his The Mexican co-star Gandolfini) to play the unflappable hitman fixer whose job it is to make a couple of low-level thugs answer for messing with the wrong people. The presence of the warmly wise Richard Jenkins as Pitt's counsel and several cleverly staged, blackly comic sequences similarly help shake off the clichés in this updated adaptation of the 1974 novel Cogan's Trade—and the trailer doesn't even touch on the way the film reportedly uses the 2008 election and Obama's hope-y, change-y campaign as an ironic counterpoint to its grim underworld. In short, Killing Them Softly has ambitions beyond being your standard-issue crime movie, even if it does mark the umpteenth usage of Johnny Cash's "Man Comes Around." (The Fugees were right there.)

Advertisement