Review: The Killing (1956)

The Killing


Stanley Kubrick
Stanley Kubrick (Novel: Lionel White)
85 min.
Sterling Hayden, Coleen Gray, Vince Edwards, Jay C. Flippen, Ted DeCorsia, Marie Windsor, Elisha Cook, Joe Sawyer, James Edwards, Timothy Carey, Kola Kwariani, Jay Adler, Tito Vuolo, Dorothy Adams, Herbert Ellis, James Griffith, Cecil Elliott, Joseph Turkel, Steve Mitchell, Mary Carroll, William Benedict, Charles R. Cane, Robert B. Williams
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In his 48-year career in the film industry, Stanley Kubrick only made thirteen feature films. Each one tackled a genre a different genre and he excelled at each from horror (The Shining) to science fiction (2001: A Space Odyssey) to political satire (Dr. Strangelove). While not all of his films are masterpieces, a staggering number were. So, going into The Killing, one of only five films of his I had not yet seen, I did expect a bit more than I got.

The Killing was his third feature film made only five years into his career. His style wasn’t quite solidified and the stilted dialogue makes it a difficult film to appreciate. The story surrounds the perfect heist carried out to steal money from the horse track. But something always goes wrong and when one of the inside men on the caper tells his listless and big mouthed wife, perfection becomes a pipe dream and no matter how well laid the plan, something always goes wrong.

Sterling Hayden is very good in the film, not Kubrick’s best performance, but one of his better ones. He plays the heist organizer who methodically executes the plan, but cannot expect the one small issue that could stop his get away cold. The rest of the cast perform their dialogue as if they were trapped in some 1940s crime caper. Their words are clipped, precise and frequently mechanical and while I could see the potential for the film to be a mockery of those cliched flicks, it still feels like one of them even though the end and the build up are a bit out of expectations. However, watching the earlier films of a legendary director gives you a better appreciation of where he came from and although not the perfect film he would later make, it is still a very strong feature that keeps you interested even when you start to see certain events coming.
Review Written
October 4, 2010

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