Ray Liotta knows how to give a hell of a fake beating. He’s also good at taking one, as he does in his latest film — mobster drama “Killing Them Softly.” Though fans are still asking him to say lines from his iconic role in 1994’s “Goodfellas,” the New Jersey native doesn’t mind slipping back into the role of a gangster for Andrew Dominik’s new film — especially since, as he says, he’s playing a good one this time around.
In this film, the mob underworld serves a microcosm for the country as a whole. So many people felt victimized by the 2008 financial crisis, which is when this film is set. The mobsters who get ripped off in the card game represent the general public. What do you think is the message of that?
Just that everybody needs money. Everybody got hit. I’m not sure, but I guess it happens to all walks of life. You don’t think of it as maybe hurting people who do illegal things, but it stands to reason that I guess would be across the board — good guys and bad guys.
It’s refreshing how the film places the mob in the context of the crisis. Is that why you wanted the role?
That was in the book. … But that’s not why I did it. I did it more just because it was a really interesting story and it was nice to play somebody who was the victim as opposed to the aggressor. It was different in terms of that bad guys that I’ve played.
We’ve gotten such an education on mob culture with “The Sopranos” and “Goodfellas.” It’s hard to believe that there are still new stories to tell about it.
There’s a lot of stories. Just the same with the superhero stuff — it’s just the same kind of story with different outfits.
You take such a beating in this movie. Have you ever been injured when doing any of these kinds of scenes?
No. It hurts more when you’re the guy who’s doing the beating. The biggest thing about that is trusting the people that you’re working with. … There’s always that fear that maybe you’ll get hit. The biggest thing is to not anticipate what you know is coming and the most frustrating thing about it is, I know I could have beaten those two guys up who do the beating on me [in this movie]. It took us, like, two days to do that one little scene — but over a period of time because we couldn’t finish the scene because one of the guys’ backs went out. So, they were very fragile, those two.
Have you ever stepped back to appreciate a good beating you’ve done?
I don’t watch the monitors or playback or anything like that. I just trust the stunt coordinator or the DP [director of photography] or whoever’s behind the camera. I know watching “Goodfellas” when I went after that guy that lives across the street from Karen, who Lorraine Bracco played — I knew that was a pretty severe beating. I could just tell from the way people reacted. I was really in the zone there. That poor guy.