I wasn’t nearly as wild as a lot of critics about The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford — I thought it was too long, too arty and slow, too in love with its moods and images. Yet it was clear that the director, the New Zealand-born Australian Andrew Dominik, was very gifted. Whenever Brad Pitt appeared as Jesse James, the screen vibrated with menace, even though Pitt seemed to be doing almost nothing. As good as he had been before (in, say, Fight Club), I thought that the Jesse James performance was the place where Pitt took the full leap to who he is today — a top-of-his-game Hollywood actor who infuses star aura with complexity. In Killing Them Softly, Dominik’s first feature since The Assassination of Jesse James, Pitt once again plays a quietly powerful sociopath, and once again the screen vibrates. The thing about Pitt’s charismatic badasses — and this is what a lot of haters still miss about him as an actor — is that although they radiate a certain brawny physical fearlessness, they draw their strength from Pitt’s intelligence, his quicksilver-cool line readings and aura of awareness. READ FULL STORY
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