Where George V. Higgins' 1974 crime novel, Cogan's Trade
was set in the seamy 1970s Boston underworld, director Andrew Dominik updates the tableau to post-Katrina New Orleans, the 2008 presidential race and the $700 billion Wall Street bailout. Of course, depicting mob syndicates as a subset of American capitalism has long been a pop culture staple. It's no small wonder, then, that Dominik populates his cast with actors meant to evoke memories of previous cinematic touchstones, including Ray Liotta (Goodfellas
) and no fewer than three regulars from The Sopranos
—including James Gandolfini—while Richard Jenkins plays a consigliere for a group of faceless mob minders. (Robert Duvall evidently wasn't available.) The film comes alive whenever Brad Pitt's Jackie Cogan is brandishing a sawed-off shotgun, interrogating a poor dolt (Scoot McNairy) involved in the heist or just bemoaning the complexities of mob bureaucracy. Unfortunately, Dominik adopts Higgins' affinity for using pages of dialoge to obliquely illustrate events rather than chronicling them as they occur.