The Killing Review
Film noir meets heist thriller for Kubrick's first masterpiece.
Only his third feature, Stanley Kubrick’s noir masterpiece The Killing is a tension-cranking piece of military-precision engineering.Shot on a relatively shoestring budget – and yet still a box office flop on release – The Killing achieved critical acclaim almost right from the get-go, and has remained a favourite even amidst Kubrick’s near-entirely stunning body of work. The film boasts a refreshingly raw script written by acclaimed crime author Jim Thompson; whose works were adapted for the likes of both versions of The Getaway, as well as the unpleasant Killer Inside Me.Kubrick also managed to pull together a great little cast headed-up by the powerhouse presence of Sterling Hayden. Along with producing partner James B. Harris, he took what could have been a run-of-the-mill heist movie and fashioned something far superior. The narrative structure combines Kubrick's mastery of the visual medium with Kurosawa-esque storytelling techniques; paying homage to Rashomon and influencing Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs.
The story, which is now the prototypical formula for every heist movie, involves the planning of a high stakes racetrack heist by a group of disparate individuals who find themselves only as strong as their weakest link. With every part of the plan seemingly playing out with clinical precision, the plan still feels doomed throughout, and it’s thanks to the superior eye of Kubrick and the razor-sharp script by Thompson that you remain utterly compelled throughout.
This is a precision film noir crime thriller; a heist movie that would go on to define the sub-genre for years.
Playing with character-centric time lapses, Kubrick tells multiple parallel stories sequentially, and cranks up the tension with each consecutive one. Utterly gripping, steeped in bleak irony and dark violence, this is quintessential film noir. Even in his early years Kubrick proved himself a master, and The Killing is a testament to that fact.
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