Killing Them Softly tells the tale of hitman Jackie Cogan (Brad Pitt) as he chases down those responsible for a heist on a mob poker game.

Based on George V Higgins' 1974 Boston-set novel Cogan's Trade to Louisiana, the film opens with a group of hoodlums arranging the heist, with the aim of robbing the gangsters and framing Markie Trattman (Ray Liotta) and Cogan is called in to deal with the problem.

Director Andrew Dominik has moulded a powerful film with superb dialogue, beautiful cinematography and a realism that most directors can only aspire to. All these qualities were also present in Dominik’s last film, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.

The cast is wonderfully drawn, with Scoot McNairy’s portrayal of Frankie, a small-time thug sucked into the heist, worth particular mention. Richard Jenkins delivers a masterfully understated performance as a mafia co-ordinator who pulls the strings without getting so much as a drop of blood on his hands while Liotta as Trattman also convinces as a weak grunt in the mafia machine.

Pitt chews the scenery as Cogan but his is the key role upon which the film rests. James Gandolfini as Cogan’s fellow hitman Mickey is nothing short of brilliant and the scenes between the two are wonderful to watch.

This depiction of thugs, violence and theft in America is set against the backdrop of the 2008 US presidential election and the financial crisis and Dominik weaves in snatches of speeches into the plot linking politics and crime.

This is a powerful crime drama with great performances and well worth catching.

Tadhg Peavoy