Starring: Sterling Hayden, Coleen Gray, Vince Edwards
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Running Time: 85 mins
The Killing is an American film about a group of criminals who attempt to pull off a daring robbery of a horse racing venue, however the plan hits numerous obstacles along the way.
Whilst The Killing is a pretty entertaining thriller, it’s not a film that I’ll remember as one of the most exhilarating of all. Unfortunately missing a real intensity and pace for the majority of the runtime, I wasn’t able to really feel fully enthralled by the tightrope walk of pulling off this heist, and although it features some entertaining moments, there’s not much that makes The Killing stand out amongst the crowd for me.
First off, though, you may have noticed that the film’s director is one Stanley Kubrick. Put simply, this film is nothing like the surreal and chilling epics he’s often best remembered for, and plays out a lot more like a standard thriller. That said, there are some interesting moments in the film that hint towards a darker and more unnerving tone, particularly towards the final fifteen minutes or so.
As it was released before his first real classic, Paths Of Glory, I think it’s best to have an open mind going into The Killing, not expecting the normal Kubrick affair, because it can feel like a bit of a let down in comparison to some of his most famous works, simply because it’s not all that innovative or intense.
But then again, that doesn’t mean it’s a badly-directed film at all. In fact, in some of the moments where the stakes are at their highest, Kubrick does well to inject a powerful sense of nervousness and uncertainty surrounding all the characters. Whilst the plan the crooks devise seems impressive, Kubrick does well to paint them as slightly more inefficient criminals, thereby giving them a good deal of vulnerability in the final act.
One thing about The Killing that starts off quite well, but doesn’t really hold up throughout, is the characterisation. The performances are generally pretty good, and particularly from the story’s most fiery couple, there’s some enjoyment and intrigue to be had from the characters they play. However, whilst the first act sets up a wide array of personalities that could have made for a lot of interesting friction, the conflicts that arise seem forced, and the characters become little more than vehicles to carry out the robbery.
On the whole, the story isn’t stellar, and apart from that one couple’s individual story arc, the film only really thrills at a few moments. The ending is great, and the first act is pretty entertaining, but as far as a polished, intense and truly exhilarating thriller goes, The Killing just wasn’t the one for me, which is why I’m giving it a 7.1.