The Set-Up - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Set-Up Reviews

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August 14, 2017
Excellent boxing film with cinematography ahead of its time, a neat take on the film noir genre.
August 6, 2017
Gripping story of an aging boxer that explores ambition, age, and fame with a small screen time of 72 minutes. The direction and cinematography is innovative and attractive which shouldn't come to surprise that this inspired Raging Bull. Robert Ryan as Bill "Stoker" Thompson gives his best performance of his career, but if the lead were true to the original short story by making him African American this film could've been one of the boldest movies of all-time.
June 3, 2017
Excellent movie about boxing. Great Robert Ryan. Audrey Totter!!
½ September 23, 2015
oh boy yet another boxing pic
August 24, 2015
Great film that truly captures the desperation of your lead over the course of a single evening! Terrific Film Noir, pleased to have it in a larger set of similar material.

July 3, 2015
Career Boxing put in a realistic way. A little weak on the fighting, but the acting otherwise was good.
June 27, 2015
A classic film noir and one of the all-time great boxing pictures. Robert Ryan plays over-the-hill 35 year old boxer Stoker Thompson, who's got a break to fight a young up and coming fighter and can revive his career. However, his crooked managers has taken money from a mobster for Stoker to throw the fight, but fails to tell Stoker he's supposed to throw the fight thinking Stoker will lose anyway. Taking place in realtime, the events of the film unfold over the course of a tight 73 minutes, which includes the boxing match shown in it's brutal entirety. Robert Ryan gives a terrific performance as the washed-up Stoker. I think either this or his performance as an on-the-edge cop in "On Dangerous Ground" are my favorite of his many great performances. Director Robert Wise also gets big credit here for crafting a stylish and very dark film noir classic. Milton Krasner provided excellent photography as he did for more big budget of pictures when he worked with the likes of Joseph L. Mankiewicz and Billy Wilder. One of the all-time great film noir and one of the all-time great boxing pictures, this one is a real American film classic.
May 11, 2015
A cheap thrill is a cheap kill, at the best of times and at the worst of times. In "The Set-Up"'s seedy palooza of sweaty promoters and grinning crooks, a couple of bucks for a pack of peanuts and a ticket to a fight is like a doctorate, a winning lottery card. The distraction of a blood-soaked beating is a relief. It's an escape from the lower-class travesties of its patrons.
Is a dogfight just as cruel? As audience members eat their hot dogs like murderers and heckle with the gusto of a cannibalistic Ethel Merman, anything even suggesting humanity is about as relevant as an anorexic sewer rat. At a dogfight, at least the victims are put out of their misery. In a sordid boxing match, the repeated poundings disfigure the athletes until they are no longer men. They become meat, sitting alone and limp while surrounded by a pack of rabid wolves.
"The Set-Up" is a seminal boxing movie, setting the path for hard-hitters like "Fat City" and "Raging Bull". Hollywood bullshit doesn't plague its airwaves; instead, the film takes place in what feels like a diamond of sleaziness, surrounded by accommodations like the Hotel Cozy and the Paradise City center - the names are paradoxes. Paradise, coziness, anything in the way of conventional elation is nonexistent. The people in this city are lying to themselves; they attend boxing matches to feel powerful in a world that renders them powerless.
Stoker Thompson (Robert Ryan) has always been victorious in his field, but at 35, he's considered to be a boxing veteran that people respect rather than bet on. "The Set-Up" sees him headlining his final match before finding a better life with his long-suffering spouse, Julie (Audrey Totter). But plaguing the couple are separate existential crises; Stoker is having trouble figuring out what he'll do once he stops acting as a piece of meat for ravenous onlookers, and Julie doesn't know how much longer she can stand by a man that puts his body before his soul.
"The Set-Up" takes place in real time, beginning at 9:05 and ending at 10:17 pm. Those 72 minutes are some of the most visceral in film noir history, straining themselves with fierce fight sequences (the main event lasting over ten vivid minutes) while getting just deep enough under the skins of the characters to make a lasting impression. Though they usually distract themselves with broken promises and false smiles, "The Set-Up" finds them almost incapable of keeping up the masquerade any longer.
Perhaps Stoker's characterization is marginally one-conventional - he only seems to be tortured when in the ring, when in danger - but it's extraordinary how textural the characters feel, despite how quickly we get to know them. As we watch Julie wander around the city, avoiding the realities of the fight, something as simple as the tilt of the head is voluminous. Totter fleshes her out as a severely tormented woman torn between love and responsibility; there's a feeling that she and Stoker have been together since they were teenagers. She stays with him out of obligation, out of worry that he'll be beaten so harshly that he'll live the rest of his life as a fractured vegetable.
Even the audience members seem to have their own backstories: one woman, beautiful but wrinkled, screams for more bruising action - she craves to see carnage as a way of needed catharsis. A man, overweight, sweating, and devouring a sausage like its his last meal, is the guy the girls ran away from in high school; after the fight, he probably masturbates himself to sleep, wishing he could be a Tiger Johnson, even a Stoker Thompson. Even in all his misery, he wouldn't be so lonely.
The only problem with "The Set-Up" is that it's much too short. It works scrumptiously as a quick, to-the-point short subject, but it's so searing and so original that it's only human to want more.
January 21, 2014
Nice little fight picture that achieves a lot through great economy.
November 11, 2013
Hopes and dreams of a boxer who is one punch away. Nourish, quirky, scary characters. Double-crosses. And, there's the fight!
August 8, 2013
ending sux, and the fight drags on
December 6, 2012
This is such a great and powerful film. It lasts 74 minutes and the story is told in real time. Wise shows here what a great filmmaker he is and how he knew how to move the camera. The acting is superb, especially Robert Ryan's. One of the finest boxing films ever made.
½ October 5, 2012
Main quality of The Set-Up is in its long, thrilling, energetic, and brutal boxing scene. Robert Ryan shows he has guts, in this noir-ish piece that combines ruthless sport with criminal operations. The washed-up boxer tries to prove to himself, to his deceitful trainer, and to his lovely wife, that at 35 years he still has the strength and stamina to beat a younger guy. Apart from its intense appeal, The Set-Up is also a great insight into the boxing cloakroom, with a close look at the fighters' weaknesses and pain.
August 2, 2012
What a great movie! Even though the plot is simple, ithe storyline is compelling, the performances from the cast are excellent and Wise's direction is first class. Recommended viewing for sure!
Anthony L.
Super Reviewer
July 18, 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.
April 22, 2012
Decent noir boxing picture, with a towering performance from Ryan and neat direction from Wise. Best thing is the real time presentation. Let down by a somewhat hammy ending.
April 6, 2012
Playing in real time, The Setup 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.
½ January 16, 2012
Though it often seems a little long even for its brief seventy-three minute running time, this dramatic film noir, directed by the hugely talented (and economical) Robert Wise, has moments of intensity and melodrama that make it very much worth the time. The film is set up to pretty much unravel in real time, specifically over the course of about an hour, and it centers itself around a boxer who finds out too late that he was supposed to throw a match for the benefit of a big time gangster's wallet. But he finds out in enough time, and his dignity gets the best of him, and that's where the film gets interesting- and actually quite brutal. As it turns out, for almost every minute of the film, Bill "Stoker" Thompson (Robert Ryan) takes a beating. He takes it in the ring and out, in his love life, by his manager, from a group of gangsters. By the end of the picture he has to literally crawl home to his wife. But the film raises some interesting questions about how much of a beating it requires to live straightly in such a crooked world. Thompson seemingly does everything right, morally, and yet he barely survives the hour. Most boxing films portray their fighters as animals, roughnecks, brutes on the edge of town. But in one of the movie's most telling scenes, the locker room in back of the boxing ring is filled with hope and camaraderie as the boxers pump each other up, give each other hope. Yes, 'The Set-Up' is a movie "about" boxing, but don't let that facade fool you; it is every bit a scrutiny on the way all of us live our lives, and a study on what it means to be clean.
½ November 27, 2011
An ageing boxer fights another fight, unaware that he has been set up to lose the fight. The premise seemed silly to me and I never believe in it or the characters.
July 13, 2011
But why the lame final scene?
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