The Killing is a pure heist movie. Cool and in command, we watch Johnny plan, organize, and execute the heist in almost documentary style. Few details are revealed until the job begins. We just see the pieces put into place. There is voice over narration that reads like a police blotter.
Many characters are introduced over the first act. Elisha Cook Jr. is here of course, ex-wrestler Kola Kwariani needed subtitles to be understood, Rodney Dangerfield is visible in a crowd scene, but most bizarre is the performance of Timothy Carey. Carey had a strange career. A method actor, he would improvise to a ridiculous degree. I’m surprised that Kubrick used him twice considering his reputation for control. A little later in his career there were directors who were afraid of him. Here he has a small role, hired to shoot a horse. He smooth-talks a parking lot attendant who starts hanging around. His line delivery is nothing short of confounding.
I struggled with this film for the first act. The storytelling and performances were odd and not very noir-like. There are many moving pieces with little explanation. The cuts from stock footage to the sets were jarring and took me out of the movie. Also the narration was distracting. But as the film progressed and the caper became clear, I became interested.
The influence of this film on directors like Quentin Tarantino is very apparent. The lunch table scene from Reservoir Dogs is taken almost verbatim. The gun hidden in the bathroom is also familiar. Here Sterling Hayden’s character gets it and in The Godfather Sterling Hayden’s character “gets it”.
I must give Kubrick some slack. The film was fairly low budget without much studio support, and the dragnet-esque narration was a studio demand. In the end, it’s a strange, complex, and interesting film, and totally worth watching again. However, maybe because of the more conventional tone, I liked The Killers a smidge better. AMRU 4.
“You'd be killing a horse - that's not first degree murder, in fact it's not murder at all, in fact I don't know what it is.”