The Killing (1956)

TheKillingPosterBy: Oberst Von Berauscht (Two Beers) –
How many beers do you recommend for this movie?
1 Beer! A Toast! Great Movie!2 Beers! Good Movie!3 Beers! Okay Movie!4 Beers! Mediocre Movie!5 Beers! Awful Movie!6-Pack! Bad movie! Do not be Sober!

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A team of career criminals and insider recruits plot a daring robbery at a horse racing track.  Led by veteran stick-up man Johnny Clay (Sterling Hayden), they meticulously plot each stage of the crime. Each person has a designated task to perform; without each element, the plan will fail. Unbeknownst to them, a leak has sprung in the otherwise tight ship, one that threatens to sink the whole plan.

A Toast

The third film of Director Stanley Kubrick,  who considered this his first “mature” work.  Indeed, The Killing has the feel and daring of an experienced director, looking to make an artistic statement.

Rabbitrabbitrabbit
Maybe not THIS artistic though.

Actor Sterling Hayden delivers a perfectly deft performance as the man with the plan, and each of his cronies are solid. Notable supporting characters include George Peatty (Elisha Cook Jr.), a mousy clerk who seems out of place in the bunch. George is the heart of the film, a seemingly normal guy pushed to extremes by a money-grubbing shrew of a wife. Also notable is Kola Kwariani as “Maurice”, a tough guy and chess player hired to start a fight as a diversion.  Actor Kola Kwariani was a professional wrestler who Kubrick reportedly met in a Chess & Checkers club both frequented. His character Maurice is a surprisingly poetic individual, given his physicality, and one wonders if the real life person brought a lot of his own experiences to the part.

Kola
Smarter than the Average Badass

As a piece of the Film Noir genre, The Killing boasts the kind of sharp, highly stylized dialogue you would expect, but with some additional nuance which elevates it above many of its peers.  The camerawork isn’t as gritty and extreme as some of them, but it is never anything less than professional.

Beer Two

Much as this film has much to praise, it also falls victim to the glaring fault of over-explanation.  The film features a newsy-style narration which often explains things which require no explanation.  This feels like a choice which a studio would have put upon the director, as Kubrick’s other works often skew the other direction, often leaving things open-ended for the viewer to decide what to make of it.  Either way, it is intrusive, and sometimes just silly.  This is a minor complaint ultimately, as the film’s many admirable aspects overwhelm it.

Verdict

2beers

A gripping and poignant early movie for Kubrick, who would go on to make more refined films.  Lesser Kubrick is still leagues above the best of many other filmmakers.

 

Drinking Game

Take a Drink: whenever the narrator points out something obvious

Take a Drink: each time a plan goes wrong

Do a Shot: for irony

About Oberst von Berauscht

Oberst Von Berauscht once retained the services of a Gypsy to imbue in him the ability to accurately describe the artistic qualities of a film up to seven decimal points. To maintain this unique skill, he must feast on the blood of a virgin every Harvest Moon, or failing that (and he usually does), he can also make a dog do that thing they do where they twist their heads slightly (you know, when they’re confused about something) at least a few times a week. I’ve gotten way off track here… The point is, Oberst is one of the website’s founders, so… yeah

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