Crime does pay and the price tag is your life in Killing Them Softly, an artfully composed, slow-burning crime thriller.

Writer-director Andrew Dominik reunites with Brad Pitt to delve deep into the psyches of men who operate on the wrong side of the law, and he elicits a strong performance from his leading man.

Indeed, the entire ensemble cast is in excellent form, including James Gandolfini as a hit man who has allowed his penchant for booze and women to cloud his killing instinct.

It’s a deliciously dishevelled world away from his celebrated role as a New Jersey mob boss in The Sopranos.

Low-level crook Johnny Amato (Vincent Curatola) learns that mob man Markie Trattman (Ray Liotta) staged a robbery at one of his own card games in order to steal the pot.

So Amato hatches a cunning plan to rob another card game and point the finger of suspicion squarely at Markie.

He hires Frankie (Scoot McNairy) to pull off the heist, and he in turn foolishly recruits unreliable junkie Russell (Ben Mendelsohn) as a second gunman. Against the odds, Frankie and Russell manage to hold up the game card and they make off with the booty.

Mob go-between Driver (Richard Jenkins) calls in hit man Jackie Cogan (Brad Pitt) to identify the perpetrators and make them pay.

Naturally, Markie is the prime suspect but Jackie likes to be thorough and he searches for other likely candidates, hiring another assassin, Mickey (Gandolfini), to do the dirty work.