America is not a country. It’s a business. Now fuckin’ pay me!
So ends the film, Killing Them Softly. I’m not going to tell you who said that line, or the circumstances surrounding it. What I will tell you is that Killing Them Softly opened last November 30th, and was directed by Andrew Dominick who also wrote the screenplay which was based on the George V. Higgins 1974 novel Cogan’s Trade.
Now Cogan’s Trade was set in Boston and in the 70′s. Dominick’s film is set in 2008 and in or near, an unnamed city, which as it turns out is New Orleans – but you’d never know it from the buildings, bars, or restaurants.
Dominick sets up a theme within the movie that is that the US economy was tanking in 2008 – we have Obama, Bush, and McCain telling us as much as we see and hear them on the TV’s which show up in all the bars throughout the movie.
While things were going south on Wall Street and Main Street – the same thing was happening within organized crime. Times were tough. One mobster, Markie Trattman played by Ray Liotta, was running a protected poker game. Which he decides to rob himself by bringing in two outsiders. We learn this in flashbacks.
Now no one would be dumb enough to take down a protected card game, so Trattman went undetected. He had to take a beating but basically he walked.
Then, in the present, another underworld figure, Johnny ‘Squirrel’ Amato, played by Vincent Curatola (Johnny Sack in the Sopranos) decides to take down another of Trattman’s poker games. He correctly figures that Trattman got away with it once, but would never ever be able to convince anyone that he wasn’t involved in the second heist. Only Amato hires two ex-cons who look like they lack the smarts to make it happen.But they do pull it off and get away clean.
The mob decides that something must be done. The mob’s middleman, called Driver and played by Richard Jenkins meets with the hired gun, Jackie Cogan (Brad Pitt). His job will be to find the two mutts who pulled the job, and to get them to roll over on who sent them. But Jackie doesn’t want to do a double. So he calls in another gunman, Mickey, played by James Gandolfini, once known far and wide as Tony Soprano.
There’s your set up.