Saturday, March 14, 2009

Overlooked: The Killing

*Warning: The following post contains references to black & white images, straightforward narration and other frightening elements of pre-rating system films.

What to say about Stanley Kubrick that hasn't already been said?

My own comment: When looking at the late director's filmography, it's hard to believe the guy directed as few films as he did. Only eight after 1960. Only two after 1980.

Early on, in 1956 -- before helming legendary movies like 2001 and A Clockwork Orange and Full Metal Jacket and this unfortunate disappointment, and even before he made the I-can't-believe-Kubrick-did-that-one Spartacus and Dr. Strangelove (the best of the bunch) -- the peerless director crafted The Killing.

It doesn't carry the twisted vision later synonymous with the director. It's pretty much a straight, sinister, small-time crime film -- a group gets together to rob a horse track and make a killing (of one kind or another). The word "taut" gets thrown around a lot, but it's perfect here -- there really isn't much time wasted in the movie's 83 minutes.

Yes, like in many early films, some of the acting is wooden and the music a little excessive. There's also one character -- played by a hulking chess-crazy pro wrestler from Russia named Kola Kwariani -- whose dialogue was almost incomprehensible*.

*Seriously, listening to Kwariani in his couple of scenes, I felt like Brian Fantana talking to Ron Burgundy.

Still, those are small qualms with an otherwise slick, entertaining yarn. It's easy to see why this one often gets forgotten when talking about Kubrick's career -- it's not big/yuge/EPIC, like some of the others. But it's also easy to see why Quentin Tarantino liked it so much that he wanted to do his own quasi-version of it years later, with Reservoir Dogs.

And, in the end (literally), the film's final line belongs right there among the best ever:

"What's the difference?"

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