THE hit goes down in the stylish gangster flick Killing Them Softly but writer-director Andrew Dominik's big-screen adaptation of George V Higgins' 1974 novel Cogan's Trade doesn't come out with guns blazing.
The Australian filmmaker is known for taking his time to tell a story - like he did in his last film, 2007's The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford - and does the same time here, running down the clock with slow-burning drama instead of action scenes.
The characters sit around in cars, bars and rooms discussing at length the next hit before they actually set out to do it. In the background, snippets of George Bush Jr and Barack Obama's 2008's presidential election campaign speeches play on TVs as Dominik links crime with the state of the economy.
As one of the baddies succinctly puts it, "we are in a business of relationships", and things look profitable given how killing is all in a day's work for the triads.
There are no good guys in Killing Me Softly, just one low-life and scumbag after another, played by an ensemble cast.
Brad Pitt - reuniting with Dominik after Assassination - takes centre stage as Jackie, a hitman who's called in to clean up the mess after two small-time crooks rob players at a poker den run by a mobster named Markie (Ray Liotta). The latter has a bad rep because he once organised a similar hold-up to steal from his own punters so all fingers point to him again for the latest heist.
Most of Dominik's cast - like Liotta and The Sopranos' James Gandolfini - eat bad guy roles for breakfast and nail their characters perfectly here.
The latter especially is a hoot to watch as an alcoholic gangster who thinks nothing of bullying ordinary people but collapses into tears while talking about his impending divorce.
Liotta is equally spectacular, playing his role with restraint as the hapless and misunderstood mobster who's about to take a hit because of a foolish mistake he made in the past.
But it's Pitt who boasts the most screen presence, stealing the film with a self-assured performance. Wearing the same black outfit throughout the film, he's a picture of cool, playing his hitman character with steely grace and nonchalance.
Still, Killing Them Softly goes on for way too long as Dominik mulls over every scene and piece of dialogue, at the expense of the gunplay.
The script lacks the wry humour of Quentin Tarantino's similar gangster talkie, Reservoir Dogs; though the stylised action (as well as the accompanying soundtrack) is on a par with anything Guy Ritchie has done.
In one of the film's most memorable scenes, a drive-by shooting is executed in the pouring rain as bullets fly around, glass shatter and blood sprays in slow motion to the tune of Ketty Lester's 1962 hit Love Letters.
It's all very cool to watch but like a cop on a stakeout, one needs lots of patience to sit through this before things spring to action. Pitt and company leave their mark but Dominik's overindulgence is perhaps what has stopped this low-key arthouse mob drama from making a killing at the box office.