The Movie Brothers welcomes Tony D’Arcangelis, an established sports and fantasy sports writer and an avid movie lover. Tony is a big fan of Netflix’s Watch Instantly feature, as are we — there’s no shortage of great films. Tony will be reviewing films and making suggestions in each of his columns to help you pick from Netflix’s massive instant library. So on with his first review, Stanley Kubrick’s “The Killing.”
After getting out of prison, Johnny Clay (Sterling Hayden) masterminds a complex race-track heist, but his scheme is complicated by the intervention of the wife of a teller (George Peatty) in on the scheme, the boyfriend of the wife, airport regulations, and a small dog.
Rating: 9 out of 10
As heist films go, this noir classic is near the top of my list. Kubrick penned the script with Jim Thompson – who also wrote The Grifters – a novel that eventually became an Oscar-nominated Donald Westlake screenplay (the taut 1990 flick starred John Cusack, Annette Bening and Anjelica Huston). While Kubrick’s mastery of chilly atmosphere and palpable dismay wasn’t fully developed yet in “The Killing,” its infancy can be spotted in a few of the film’s key sequences.
I’m a big fan of voiceover (when it works) and the narration here seems like Joe Friday got dropped into David Mamet’s universe – a detail I enjoyed as much as the looming tension that’s woven throughout. While we don’t learn a lot about Hayden’s Johnny – certainly not as much as we learn about his character in Dr. Strangelove – he’s an avuncular hustler we root for. He knows what he wants, he’s willing to work to get it, and he relies on everybody to know their painfully specific roles and do what’s expected of them. Johnny doesn’t like questions, but what he’s offering – a portion of a hefty racetrack take – should be worth accepting some shadiness. The lesser actors all perform competently, and if you’re a Kubrick buff, you’ll recognize Brooklyn-born actor Timothy Carey – who shines as reliable marksmen Nikki Arcane – from “Paths of Glory,” Kubrick’s subsequent masterpiece.
The dialogue is just what I’d expect from a young Kubrick – short and snappy lingo that elicits some chuckles, a few gasps, and more than a few satiated smiles. I’d rank the film’s final line somewhere in my top 20 of all-time, mainly for its succinct awesomeness.