The Killers - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Killers Reviews

Page 1 of 9
July 18, 2016
A stripped down, no-nonsense adaptation of Ernest Hemmingway's 1927 short-story, which had previously been adapted in 1946 by Robert Siodmak, and starring Burt Lancaster and Ava Gardner, the 1964 version of The Killers is an effective and enjoyably straightforward film noir, directed with smooth efficiency by Don Siegel (Dirty Harry), and performed with skill by a clutch of great actors, such as Lee Marvin, Angie Dickinson, John Cassavetes, and, in his final role before entering politics, Ronald Reagan. That's right, Ronald Reagan. As a villain no less!

But in all seriousness, the film holds up incredibly well. Originally envisioned as one of the first made-for-tv movies, it was deemed too violent for broadcast, so, Universal repackaged it as a good old fashioned slice of late period American noir. And as such, the budget is lower then your average film, but is used effectively. Don Siegel directs the story of a weathered hitman, Charlie Strom (Lee Marvin), pondering why his target, a former race car driver, Johnny North (John Cassavetes), didn't resist his fate, instead simply allowing himself to be shot. Deeply confused, the hitman and his twitchy, sunglasses adorned partner Lee (Clu Gulager), the duo set out to find out what made their target so dead inside. Along the way, they first interrogate Johnny's former mechanic and friend, Earl (Claude Akins), who points them in the direction of Shelia Farr (Angie Dickinson), a alluring temptress who caught Johnny's eye, but happened to also be the girlfriend of the villainous gangster Jack Browning (Ronald Reagan).

Siegel keeps the pace swift and direct, bouncing between present-day and flashbacks with ease, while keeping the film alive with a spark and edginess to the direction. It's not super eye catching, but it's all effective, and helps contribute to the stark, pessimistic tone of the film. On top of that, he gets some choice performances out of his stable of actors. Lee Marvin is, as always, a perfect mix of calm and collected yet violent and dangerous. By Marvin's own admission, this was his favorite performance to date, and it's well deserving. Quintessentially summing up his unique brand of stark roughness and coolness that no other actor could quite match.

John Cassavetes delivers a great performance as Johnny North, whose life is related back to us in flashback. An ambitious, determined driver who falls into complete bondage under Angie Dickinson's vixen like charms, Cassavetes mixes vulnerability with arrogance perfectly, and even though his character is no doubt doomed by the narrative (after all, he dies in the first five minutes of the movie), you can't help but root for the guy, and feel pained when he repeatedly gets screwed over in increasingly terrible ways.

Angie Dickinson is a quintessential noir femme fatal, all allure but no soul. Her steady seduction of Cassavetes is smooth and done with practiced intent, and despite all her over-the-top declarations of love, it's plainly apparent that she's a no good, two-timin' dame, whose own greed means she's dedicated to the real love of her life: Power, and those who wield it.

Ronald Reagan meanwhile, provides an assured, smoothly calm and collected performance as the dominating, cold hearted gangster Jack Browning. Using his innate charisma and charm, Reagan is the textbook definition of affably evil, and, for the only time Reagan ever played a villain, he does so quite well. And trust me, it is quite surreal to see the future president of the united states play a cold hearted mobster, but at the same time, it works!

The film's score, by a then-unknown John Williams (credited as Johnny Williams) is a spikey, crackling piece of excellent jazz scoring. Contrasting the stark, cynical noir elements with the romantic elements, Williams shows his natural talent for film music, and it's a vital piece of his musical filmography, if only to show how good he was from the beginning.

So, suffice to say, The Killers is an underrated, unpretentious piece of excellent genre filmmaking, and totally worth checking out.

The best part? It's on YouTube!

5 out of 5 stars.
½ July 6, 2016
It doesn't work all the time, but when it does it soars. Don Siegel is one hell of a director and his version of The Killers, although lacking the existential and poetic contours of Hemingway's short story, somewhat started propelling the gritty and nihilist crime thriller boom that eventually defined the '70s.
December 27, 2015
As a precursor to Dirty Harry, it is great.
December 1, 2015
This remake of the supposedly better original film has a pretty solid cast. You got Lee Marvin, and I wondered why the hell that one guy looked like Ronald Reagan. Its turns out it was him. The Killers remake is a gritty film, but not great. It has some good moments, but the flashbacks really kill the tension, even though it has its moments here and there.
½ September 1, 2015
Works as a tough, compelling and bleak thriller out in the daylight, though it still exists in the shadow of the '46 version.
½ December 1, 2013
Siegel takes Siodmak into fast, brutal post-Camelot era--The Killers strike again!!
November 2, 2013
this is a remake (#2) i prefer the original 1946 version-one of the first cycle film noirs.
½ August 13, 2013
Silly and mediocre old fashioned golden age studio film. Good performances from Marvin and Cassavetes.
June 19, 2013
So much fun, filled with dames, broads, goons and heavies. Superb performances from Lee Marvin, Angie Dickenson and Ronald Reagan in his only bad-guy role.
March 6, 2013
Better than the original version!
February 3, 2013
An odd bubblegum technocolor noir. Considering this was to be a made for TV film it's incredible. Considering its a remake of the Siodmak classic, it's an interesting interpretation. But its heavy handedness is at times grating. If this film existed in a vacuum I would have loved it all the more. Still, Don Siegel manages to thrill us.
January 26, 2013
Two hitmen, Charlie Strom (Lee Marvin) and Lee (Clu Gulager) takes out the former racedriver Johnny North (John Cassavetes). After the hit, Charlie can't understand why North didn't try to escape from them and "just stood there and took it" when they came to shoot him. He becomes obsessed to find out why, wich leads them to a femme fatale, Sheila Farr (Angie Dickinson), and the former crime kingpin Jack Browning (Ronald Reagan)...

This Don Siegel vehicle is based on a short story by Ernest Hemingway and carries a classic double cross/revenge theme, but via the strong actors (Marvin, Dickinson, Gulager and Cassavetes) this becomes quite entertaining. And quite violent as well. Despite the pretty poor Hollywood backlot structures at times. Lee Marvin is a personal favourite and he plays a quite nasty character here in a very convincing manner. I reckon he played as hard in real life as well from what I know. Love the ending.
½ May 13, 2012
A competent remake of Robert Siodmak's 1946 film noir masterpiece which has its own place in cine history by its remarkable cast, especially Lee Marvin in his finest hour, and a crude depiction of violence that influenced Tarantino's classics Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction. By the way, a young John William is credited as the composer of the music score.
½ May 4, 2012
Remake du film "Les tueurs" de Robert Siodmak realise en 1946. Mise en scene correcte. Surprenante intrigue, on se demande ou on va. Le trio d'acteurs est tres bon et Lee Marvin a toujours autant la classe.
½ April 28, 2012
Don Siegel's remake of Ernest Hemingway's "The Killers" was originally set to be a TV movie, but the violence made the studio nervous. So it was released to theaters in 1964. Lee Marvin and Clu Gulager are two hitmen who decide to find out why their latest job didn't try to get away when he had the chance. Along the way, we learn the answer through several flashbacks. John Cassevetes plays the lovestruck racer who gets in over his head when he falls for Angie Dickinson, who's mixed up with bad guy Ronald Reagan and his thugs. Entertaining, if unpoetic crime drama. This was Reagan's final film before becoming Governor of California, and he does a surprisingly credible job as the main villain. He was apparently hesitant to play the role because of the violence, including a scene where he slaps poor Angie in the face.
Super Reviewer
½ April 11, 2012
Siegel's minimalistic style perfectly suits every crime tale he touches. This version rivals Robert Siodmak's previous by being something completely different, having more of a pulp-ish, b-movie sensitivity, au courant with a more nihilistic, violent, and mysogynistic time it was made. Memorable parts played by everyone, especially the badass Lee Marvin, and Angie Dickinson is to die for..
½ April 9, 2012
Great film noir piece. The weak special effects are made up for by the acting. Nothing like seeing Ronald Reagan as a villain, the story was compelling as well with the flash backs. Made me want to read the novel.
Super Reviewer
April 2, 2012
Excellent film noir!
December 2, 2011
The original is the classic.. and weird to see Ronnie Raygun in a movie.. (I never had).. it was tough to appreciate his character until it developed. Not a bad flick though.. but really close to the same story except with a race car driver - actually a couple twists I suppose.
July 30, 2011
Not as good as the original Killers with Burt Lancaster but you do get to see Ronald Reagan slap a girl. And Lee Marvin is perfect. Cassavetes is great too.
Page 1 of 9