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Ray Liotta returns in 'Cogan's Trade' on-screen and 'Something Wild' on disc

Andrew Dominik's film of the late George V. Higgins' ace crime novel "Cogan's Trade" is attracting a superb cast, including Brad Pitt, Sam Rockwell, James Gandolfini, and Richard Jenkins.

Now Ray Liotta has joined the team.

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It's great material, and a promising roster, but I have qualms about the production. Higgins' wit is gritty and sardonic, not hah-hah funny; I worry about the movie's tone when industry reporters describe it as "a crime comedy."

Also, Higgins was the quintessential Boston writer -- Beantown was his equivalent of Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha County -- but the movie, reportedly, will be shot in New Orleans.

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The film still has a chance to be great if it's true to Higgins' taut, mordant tale of an enforcer (Pitt) bent on restoring gangland equilibrium after the stick-up of a high-stakes card game supposedly shielded by the Mob. (Liotta plays the guy who runs the card game.) A movie version would at least bring the book back into print -- and Liotta back into a juicy, prominent role in a major motion picture.

More good news for Liotta fans: The Criterion Collection is releasing Jonathan Demme's "Something Wild" on DVD and Blu-ray in May. It's the epitome of jazzy downtown moviemaking circa 1987, with Jeff Daniels as the Wall Street doofus who shucks propriety when he falls for live-wire Melanie Griffith. The film generates a rich comic suspense -- is Griffith a free spirit, a loon, or a femme fatale? -- and then becomes genuinely horrifying when Liotta enters the picture as her ex-con husband. Liotta is as scary as Robert Mitchum in the original "Cape Fear." For this kind of role, there can be no higher praise.

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