The Cannes Film Festival got its biggest shot of celebrity adrenaline yet on Tuesday, even if it was only half the dose some were expecting.
Brad Pitt arrived at the festival with the stylish, hardboiled film "Killing Them Softly," which he produced and stars in. The film, an adaptation of a George V. Higgins crime novel directed by Andrew Dominik, was screened Tuesday in competition for the Palme d'Or.
While many were wrangling with the film's audacious juxtaposing of a story of violent back-stabbing criminals with an overt political subtext, others were being gently let down by Pitt: No, Angelina Jolie wasn't with him, as she's preparing for a role, he said. And their highly anticipated wedding has no date set, he said in a press conference.
But "Killing Them Softly" left much for discussion. Pitt stars as a kind of fixer who organizes the necessary retribution of two thieves (Scoot McNairy, Ben Mendelsohn) who rob a poker game of gangsters. Woven throughout are billboards, radio broadcast and televised speeches of U.S. President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush.
Though the book ("Cogan's Trade") takes place in the 1970s, the film is set in 2008, during the presidential election and the financial crisis. At one point, Pitt's character pronounces: "America's not a country, it's a business."
"We were certainly at the apex of the mortgage loan debacle," Pitt said on the beginning of the project. "I felt that I was reading a gangster film and it wasn't until the very end that it coalesced for me as far what the direction of the film is pointing to overall — that this microcosm is actually saying something about the macro world."
Pitt said he doesn't intend "Killing Them Softly," which is scheduled for theatrical release this September, to be read as his views or to be fodder for the upcoming election season.
"I always feel that crime films are about capitalism," said Dominik, the director of "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford." ''It's the only genre where it's perfectly accepted for all the characters to be motivated by a desire for money only."