Brad Pitt's role as a brutal mob enforcer is not just a gangster story but a commentary on modern living, he has said.
Killing Them Softly stars Brad as Jackie Cogan who is hired to hunt down and punish a gang of petty thieves who turned over a lucrative poker game.
At a packed press conference in Cannes, the actor, who also produced the film, said he was looking for stories that "say something about our time and who we are."
He also quashed rumours that he and partner Angelina Jolie had set a date for their wedding, and added she would not be joining him at the festival.
Describing the idea behind Killing Them Softly, which also stars Ray Liotta, Brad said newspaper headlines about the global financial situation and what was happening to people was a source of inspiration.
He said: "This commentary - in the way it's done in this film, in the way that you believe you're watching a gangster film - I felt it was really a gangster film and it wasn't until the very end that things coalesced for me as far as maybe the direction the film was pointing to overall; that the film actually was saying something about the greater world."
He said his character killed people in the best way possible, hence the title of the film, as was dictated by his occupation.
"He wanted to get the job done and put people through the least pain," Brad said.
The Hollywood heartthrob, who appeared at the press conference wearing a grey suit and white t-shirt and sporting a goatee beard and moustache, said partner Angelina would not be joining him in Cannes because she was too busy.
Commenting on if they had set a date for their wedding, he said: "We actually really, truly have no date."