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This is a solid entry into the 50's heist genre, but nothing more. It's clever enough, well-acted enough, intriguing enough, and it all amounts to a perfectly fine movie. Unfortunately, by-the-numbers isn't the same as ‘great', so it settles in at ‘good'.
Closest comparison: It's like Asphalt Jungle six years later.
Oh no! Another experimentation with film noir from Kubrick who produced one of his least interesting films with Killer's Kiss (1955) that once again lands with a thud. The cinematography is beautiful, of course, but story-wise it is clear that Kubrick needs a new writer. In this film we find a character who could still potentially be interesting in Sherry, Marie Windsor, but that is squandered as she gets thrown away for large sections of the film to focus on a dull heist. I really, really struggled to get through this film and I would implore you not to put yourself through the same pain even if you love the director's work.
We get another clichÃ (C) set-up with Johnny Clay, Sterling Hayden, playing a robber attempting to carry out "one last heist" before he settles down with Fay, Coleen Gray. He assembles a team, I won't go through all of them because they blend together. They intend to steal the money collected from racetrack betting at the â~local racetrack'. Complicating things is the man who watches over the money, George Peatty, Elisha Cook Jr., and his conniving wife Sherry who wants to steal the money for herself and run of with her lover Val, Vince Edwards. Val messes up in his attempt to shoot George dead and George returns home to murder his wife before dying himself. Johnny and Fay try to escape the country with the money but are caught and the film ends with the film's most famous line "What's the difference?"
I'm not a film noir fan but even I can admit that Mildred Pierce (1945), Sunset Boulevard (1950), Double Indemnity (1944) and Blade Runner (1982) are great films. Films shouldn't be penalized for not reaching the heights of any of those films but The Killing doesn't even equal Sudden Fear (1952) or Brute Force (1947). I suppose my expectations of Kubrick are always so high that this much like his two earlier works felt like a letdown when compared to genre-defining classics like The Shining (1980) and Barry Lyndon (1975). I don't think it's just my high expectations that caused me not to like this film because there is a plethora of films very similar to this from this era that are more engaging that I would encourage people to watch.
The characters other than the misused Sherry were just bland and hard to become interested in and as with Killer's Kiss they all felt like clichÃ (C)s. The central character's journey was so clichÃ (C) that Danny Glover references the trope in every single film in the Lethal Weapon series. The team that he assembles are not particularly diverse or fun to watch and that means that the mid-section of the film really drags as we are clearly meant to be delighted by the rapport between these stock heroes. I wanted so much more out of what was meant to be a character driven film and I am glad that Kubrick dropped film noir and picked up genres that he was better suited to after this second misfire.
One of the few positives of the film was Sherry, an intriguing femme fatale with a potentially fascinating but unexplored backstory. Kubrick's writing lets us down again as we hear about the marital issues between George and Sherry through voiceover providing exposition instead of an interaction in which this is implied which would have been more subtle and interesting. She is largely thrown away, her husband shoots her before the climax of the film, and we don't get any of the tidbits or deliciously nasty moments that could have elevated this above your average film noir. This film doesn't even reach average instead as we spend our time with dull men that Kubrick is convinced are interesting and even the most beautiful shots can't save a film with a terribly shoddy screenplay.
This is definitely a miss unless you have never seen a film noir, heist film or crime thriller in your life. If you have all of this will be awfully unexciting to you as it has all been done before but much better. If you want to watch a great post-1940s film noir consider Chinatown (1974) or even the trashy but enjoyable Sin City (2004). Beware of this film, it may bear the Kubrick name but it hardly stacks up against his later works.
The Killing: Despite lurid detail and full of twists, the ending; un-ironically(if you catch my drift),ends in disaapointment and leaves you wanting more.
With a stunningly fluid camera work, risky and influential narrative structure, razor-sharp dialogue, and thoroughly interesting fleshed-out characters brought to life by astonishingly convincing performances from the entire cast, Kubrick's The Killing is a smart, taut, enjoyable and brisk little crime film that is decidedly ahead of its time.
If only the execution of the plan was half as smart as the setup for it. I really didn't buy it. I also would that I found the movie as suspenseful and tense as its thrilling atmosphere wanted me to feel. Adding to this, I found the narration that sounds like it was from a trailer completely unnecessary and also off-putting.
The best thrilling movie ever made!
Despite this only being his third feature and his first with a significant budget, Kubrick displays many of the thematic preoccupations and visual traits that would come to define his unique, cinematic voice
Tough noir-style heist drama, meticulously directed with an unusual time structure and a first-rate cast.
Fast-paced and smart, this crime drama is gripping beginning to end. Beautifully shot, well paced, and a curious story about a robbery gone wrong. Lots of amazing images, like the money flying on the runway, the horses pulling open the gates at the track, etc. Would definitely see it again.
The crime film that crime films have ripped off of for decades.
Perhaps the greatest film noir movie ever.