Brad Pitt has reunited with Australian director Andrew Dominik for another crime film.
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25 Nov 2011 - 3:24 PM  UPDATED 5 Nov 2012 - 11:30 PM

What mid-life crisis? If the contrary combination of Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's Babel and the Coen Brothers' Burn After Reading hinted that Brad Pitt was coming good in his forties, then this year's strong back-to-back performances in Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life and Bennett Miller's Moneyball have made the transformation clear. The handsome, vacant movie star has become a leading man of good taste, offering the kind of self-contained – and flawed – masculine pride that the likes of Burt Lancaster exhibited in his B&W prime.

Next up for Pitt is a hard-edged genre piece. Reuniting with Australian director Andrew Dominik (Chopper), with whom he made the 2007 revisionist western The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (pictured), Pitt will play an organised crime enforcer investigating the robbery of a poker game under his employer's protection in Cogan's Trade. James Gandolfini, Ray Liotta and Richard Jenkins co-star, while the notice taken internationally of Animal Kingdom means that one of the crew Pitt is pursuing will be played by the resurgent Ben Mendelsohn.

Dominik's source material is a 1974 crime novel by the late George V. Higgins, one of the genre's most revered figures. The first novel Higgins had published – reportedly the 18th he wrote – was 1970's The Friends of Eddie Coyle, which with Peter Yates (Bullitt) directing resulted in a 1973 movie where an ageing Robert Mitchum gave one of the great performances of his career. The laconic, deceptive Mitchum did most of his best work – The Lusty Men, Out of the Past, Night of the Hunter – before he was 40; Brad Pitt appears to be doing the opposite.

Fresh from Abbas Kiarostami's Certified Copy, Juliette Binoche will play a surgeon for French actor-turned-filmmaker Marion Lane in A Monkey on My Shoulder, which has just begun shooting in Marseilles. Binoche, whose previous highs include The English Patient, Hidden and Krzysztof Kieslowski's immeasurable Three Colours: Blue, will co-star with Edgar Ramirez, the Venezuelan-born actor who delivered the powerhouse titular performance in Olivier Assayas' terrorism epic Carlos.

When it comes to casting a villain for a major movie, the common response is to simply hire a great actor. Sometimes the opposite approach actually works better (see Albert Brooks in Drive), but from Laurence Olivier in Marathon Man to Ralph Fiennes in the Harry Potter series there's a tradition of gifted thespians breaking bad. The latest to consider making the move is Benicio Del Toro, the star of the Che movies and Traffic, who may end up playing the as yet unknown nemesis to the rebooted Captain Kirk, Spock and co. in the 2013 sequel to 2009's Star Trek.

The gold standard in Star Trek villains is Ricardo Montalban's Khan from 1982's Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, although reprising that would be far too obvious for returning co-writer and director J.J. Abrams, who prefers scrambled timelines – his reboot managed to get young Spock (Zachary Quinto) and old Spock (Leonard Nimoy into the same movie – and altered realities. Del Toro has lousy taste in blockbusters (see Wolfman, The), so if he's unsure about venturing into space, and possibly playing an alien, he can check with Eric Bana, who pulled villain duty in the reboot, which mainly consisted on prowling around an enormous spaceship set and shouting quite a bit.