The Set-Up

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86%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 7

89%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 1,753
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Movie Info

As shown by the clock face that opens and closes the film, The Set-Up takes place within a compact 72 minutes, with the action played out in "real time." Robert Ryan plays Bill "Stoker" Thompson, a washed-up boxer who refuses to give up his career despite the pleas of his wife Julie (Audrey Totter). There's little chance that he's going to win this evening's bout; still, Stoker's manager Tiny (George Tobias) has secretly made a deal with a crooked gambler (Alan Baxter). Stoker is to take a dive, a fact withheld from him until the fight is well under way. His last vestige of pride is aroused in the ring, but the story doesn't end there. The fight sequence is one of the most brutal ever filmed, with close ups of Ryan's pummeled face intercut with shots of screaming spectators in the throes of bloodlust. Adapted by Art Cohn from a narrative poem by Joseph Moncure March, The Set-Up is arguably Robert Ryan's finest starring film.

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Critic Reviews for The Set-Up

All Critics (7)

Audience Reviews for The Set-Up

  • Nov 14, 2018
    Great film showing the uglier side of boxing â" the gambling, fight fixing, bloodthirsty crowds, and boxers taking brutal beatings because theyâ(TM)re holding on to a dream of riches that is just âone punch away.â? Director Robert Wise makes us see the sport from another perspective, one that is â~behind the scenesâ(TM) as much as it is in the ring. And, despite the action and grit, itâ(TM)s also a very pensive film, with quiet moments that are brilliant. Audrey Totter tearing up her ticket and throwing it off a bridge as a train passes underneath; Robert Ryan watching as other fighters return to the locker room from their bouts. Theyâ(TM)re both excellent. At just 72 minutes and without a wasted shot, the film is lean and has just the right amount of darkness to it. The boxing scenes themselves are pretty herky-jerky, but capture the atmosphere of violence well, and made me think of gladiators in the Roman Colosseum. These poor guys get pummeled while others profit or satisfy their bloodlust â" and itâ(TM)s interesting to see that itâ(TM)s often the women in the crowd who urge the fighters on. Great example of film noir, and economy in filmmaking.
    Antonius B Super Reviewer
  • Jul 05, 2012
    A great tale of betrayl and false friendships. On the surface, The Set Up may seem like a normal boxing film but once you watch it, you find out it's much more than that. The acting is good although I had never heard of Robert Ryan before this film. Favorite Scene: When Stoker comes back to win the match.
    Anthony L Super Reviewer
  • Feb 05, 2009
    [font=Century Gothic]Simultaneously a scathing indictment of boxing(surprisingly, more recent movies have been kinder towards the sport) and a gripping and symbolic drama, "The Set-Up" is centered on Stoker Thompson(Robert Ryan), a 35-year old boxer, whose own wife Julie(Audrey Totter) can barely watch her husband fight anymore. Even worse, his manager Tiny(George Tobias) has arranged to fix his next fight against Tiger Nelson(Hal Fieberling), an up and coming fighter, with Little Boy(Alan Baxter), a local mobster, without even bothering to tell Stoker in order to keep the money for himself, so confident is he of Stoker losing the fight. [/font] [font=Century Gothic][/font] [font=Century Gothic]With that simple premise, it becomes very clear, very quickly that boxers are exploited by managers and other scum. While some boxers are lucky enough to get a shot at the title, most spend years on the minor league circuit, risking their health every time they venture into the ring. And Robert Wise's expert direction lets the crowd play a significant role as the viewer gets to see a variety of expressions from the spectators.("The Truman Show" tried the same thing but simply came off as insulting.) As predictable as the "The Set-Up" is(could it have ended any other way?), the meaning of the ending is not.[/font]
    Walter M Super Reviewer
  • Dec 28, 2008
    Playing in real time, The Set-Up is the story of a washed up prizefighter looking for one last shot at glory. According to IMDb, the screenplay was actually based on a poem about a black boxer named Pansy Jones. The author, Joseph March, was reportedly unhappy about his character being changed to Stoker Thompson, a white man. Unlike most films about boxing, the fight scenes here seem raw and unchoreographed. Robert Ryan (who, by the way, was a boxer at Dartmouth) is completely believable in his portrayal and director Robert Wise manages to make the dark tension of the piece tangible. You can almost feel the punches and smell the sweat.
    Randy T Super Reviewer

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