When ex-con Johnny Clay (Sterling Hayden) says he has a plan to make a killing, everybody wants to be in on the action. Especially when the plan is to steal $2 million in a racetrack robbery scheme in which "no one will get hurt." But despite all their careful plotting, Clay and his men have overlooked one thing: Sherry Peatty (Marie Windsor), a money-hungry, double-crossing dame who's planning to make a financial killing of her own...even if she has to wipe out Clay's entire gang to do it! Directed in a revolutionary story-telling technique by the legendary Stanley Kubrick, The Killing is tough, taut, tense and one of the greatest crime thrillers ever made!
Stanley Kubrick's third feature, and first screen classic, is one of the great crime films of the 1950s. The Killing
was written in collaboration with Jim Thompson, who penned pulp novels like The Grifters
, The Killer Inside Me
, and Pop. 1280
, all of which were made into classic films. This time writing directly for the screen, Thompson joined with Kubrick to concoct a story about a desperate gang of lowlifes led by a grim, determined Sterling Hayden. Together they devise and execute a complex racetrack robbery, but inner tensions and the iron fist of fate work against them. The cast is uniformly superb, with Hayden, Jay C. Flippen, Timothy Carey, Marie Windsor, and Elisha Cook Jr. fleshing out characters torn between grandiose ambition and petty desire. Cinematographer Lucian Ballard fashions distorted, starkly lit interiors that reflect the psychological tensions of the characters. He and Kubrick also create one of the most memorably ironic final sequences in film history.
The Killing is a perfect introduction to the art and joys of film noir, and its bizarre narrative structure has been copied many times since. For a terrific double feature, see it with John Huston's The Asphalt Jungle, another noir masterpiece featuring Hayden; or Paths of Glory, Kubrick's next picture, again cowritten with Thompson; or even Jackie Brown, in which Quentin Tarantino pays homage to the ways this film leaps around in time. More commercial than some of Kubrick's later work, The Killing remains a tour de force by one of the world's finest filmmakers. --Raphael Shargel