Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Killing - Kubrick Did Film Noir?

Stanley Kubrick is a well known film director, making monumental movies such as The Shining, A Clockwork Orange, and 2001: A Space Odyssey. However, little did I know as I was searching for Film Noir on NetFlix, Kubrick made a black-and-white 1956 masterpiece known as The Killing.

Johnny Clay, played by Sterling Hayden (the guy who broke Al Pacino's jaw in The Godfather), is a criminal mastermind who wants to score one last heist before retiring and running away with his beautiful gal. The goal is to steal $2,000,000 from a horse-racing-track. In order to conduct the heist, Clay ensembles his team of merry men, each with a specific job:

This movie has everything: Action, drama, comedy, romance, and suspense. And like all classic noir, the scenery is covered with dark shadows and has a plot twisted by a back-stabbing Beauty. However, it's the continuity that sets this film apart from others. The story is told in a linear fashion, but when it comes to the time of the heist, the perspective of each heist member is told in a parallel fashion. For instance, when the Wrestler is causing a distraction, you see Johnny being let into a locked room. After this perspective is finished, the camera switches to the Window Teller: We see him let Johnny into the locked room, while the Wrestler can be seen fighting police officers through the doorway. Without watching every character's point of view, you won't know how Johnny escaped with the money.

We can tell this movie was told in the 1950's as the final message of the film is that crime doesn't pay. Most of the crew's fate was death. However, if you were lucky enough to get away with the money, eventually all of your cash would be chaotically blowing across an airport landing strip with authorities waiting to take you in.

I enjoyed this movie so much, that it makes my top 10. I even enjoyed small things such as Johhny Clay's disguise, as it resembles the clown masks used at the beginning of the Dark Knight. I'm also sure this movie influenced Tarantino in some fashion, as he used the same type of storytelling during the money exchange in Jackie Brown. As much as I like horrowshow ultra-violence and the old-in-and-out, this movie proves you can still tell a great story without it.

So on Death List Five, The Killing ranks #5.

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