Brad Pitt stars as a hit man in the blood-drenched drama Killing Them Softly set against the US financial meltdown and Barack Obama's election and premiering at Cannes Tuesday.
The film, which got a warm reception at an early press preview, features Pitt as a contract killer working for a mob syndicate run like any major US corporation, complete with brutal cost-cutting to cope with the recession.
The action unfolds just as the subprime mortgage crisis begins to wreak havoc on financial markets at the end of 2008, in the thick of the US presidential election campaign.
The picture reunites Pitt with New Zealand-born Andrew Dominik, who directed him in 2007's "The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford", and couples highly stylised violence with a nostalgic American soundtrack.
Pitt as the mob enforcer Jackie Cogan is called in when two bumbling thieves knock over a high-stakes poker game among local gangsters. His contact with the organisation, a straight-laced squeamish attorney played by Richard Jenkins, passes on the mobsters' orders and later has to inform the killer that his fee for a triple murder has been slashed by a third.
As they haggle, a television broadcasts Obama delivering his acceptance speech in Chicago in which he outlines his vision for a new America. "America's not a country," a cynical Pitt drawls. "It's a business."
Pitt, sporting shaggy blond-tinted hair and a goatee, was due to hold a press conference at the French Riviera festival before the picture's red-carpet premiere later Tuesday.
Killing Them Softly is one of 22 films vying for the festival's coveted Palme d'Or top prize, to be awarded on Sunday.