The Killers (1946)

The Killers (1946)
Directed By: Robert Siodmak
Starring: Burt Lancaster, Ava Gardner, Edmond O’Brien

Femme Fatale…√
Dutch Angles…√

The Killers definitely fits well within the film noir genre. The story is convoluted, but was surprisingly easy to follow. Jim Reardon (Edmond O’Brien) works for an insurance company and is sent to look into the death of a man who was killed by two unknown gunmen. The Killers, based off of Ernest Hemingway’s short story of the same name, takes us on a suspenseful, intriguing murder mystery. It’s told mostly through the aid of flashbacks, and I have to wonder if the creators of the film were inspired by Citizen Kane. I love the way we’re dropped into the middle of the story and left to fill in the blanks. J.J. Abrams would have loved this film. 🙂

Burt Lancaster stars in his screen debut as The Swede, one of the main characters. I caught the end of Field of Dreams on TV the other night, which was his final film, so I find it fitfully ironic that I watched The Killers shortly after. Lancaster was by no means perfect in The Killers, but as his first role, he did a good job. He really pulls through with his raw emotionality in certain scenes.

And Ava Gardner is great as femme fatale Kitty Collins. She really brings a lot to her character. As a noir film I was pleasantly surprised at how the characters in the film had that rough and tough personality that we’re used to in the genre, but their sensitive, more fragile sides are also shown in different scenes as well. The Killers truly is a character driven story and it’s what makes it a great film. It’s about people that we learn to care about over time and we want to know the outcome. That said, I would have liked to see more motivation and development for certain characters.

The Killers also has some very impressive cinematography from Elwood Bredell. The overall atmosphere fits throughout the film, both light and dark. I really liked what he did with the opening title sequence. It starts with two characters driving in a car. Cut to a town street late at night with the credits. Part way through the credits the two mean walk towards the camera with some awesome lighting and rising tension. The following scene where the killing takes place is an amazing piece of camerawork and lighting. You can read Rick’s thoughts on the scene and watch the clip HERE. (Be warned that it does contain spoilers) There’s another scene involving a heist that is almost as good.

It really is a great film. At times it seems to think it’s more suspenseful than it really is, but dangit I was hooked. I was invested in the characters and generally interested in the story as a whole.

This review was written for…


NetFlix Update No. 6

1. I Vitelloni (Dir. Federico Fellini)

Why Did You Pick That?

My Voyage to Italy.

2. The Flowers of St. Francis (Dir. Roberto Rossellini)

Why Did You Pick That?

See above.

3. Detour (Dir. Edgar G. Ulmer)

Why Did You Pick That?

It’s on the Movie Noir Month list at Movie Zeal.

Review: Intolerable Cruelty

(The Nashville Film Festival was a blast. I’m pretty busy at the moment, but will be posting about the experience soon.)

Movie Zeal has been chronologically reviewing the Coen Brothers films for the last month, and asked me to write up a review for Intolerable Cruelty. Be sure to check our the rest of their reviews.

Intolerable Cruelty

Intolerable Cruelty is one of the Coens more commercial films and is seemingly underrated. I think this is largely due to the script actually being written by three other writers, not the Coens themselves. Miles Massey (George Clooney) is a well-established divorce attorney. He even has a marriage contract named after him: The “Massey pre-nup”, which is reportedly impenetrable. At the top of his game, Massey is bored with his job and accomplishments. He is also smitten by the foxy Marylin Rexroth (Catherine Zeta-Jones), who is in the process of divorcing her husband in the hopes of acquiring a hefty alimony. Massey has been hired by Marylin’s train-loving husband (Edward Herrmann) to represent him. When all is said and done, will these two opposites attract or repel?

The film is a dark romantic comedy and deals with such themes as love, revenge, and ultimately, power. The characters in Intolerable Cruelty are perfectly cast. George Clooney, channeling Cary Grant, and Catherine Zeta-Jones, the femme fatale, have a dynamic on-screen chemistry from day one. Clooney’s character is also similar to the character he plays in the Coens’ O Brother Where Art Thou? In that film, Everett is obsessed with his hair, and in this one, Miles Massey is obsessed with his teeth. In one interview, Clooney claimed his characters in these two films are part of the “Idiot trilogy”, which will conclude with Hail Caesar (a new project from the Coen Brothers, now in pre-production).

Even the supporting characters are played well, with great performances from Geoffrey Rush, Cedric the Entertainer, Paul Adelstein, Billy Bob Thornton, Edward Herrmann, and Richard Jenkins. Each character is unique and contributes to the overall story. Intolerable Cruelty is a step back to the older screwball comedies where Katherine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, and especially Cary Grant reigned. It’s witty and intelligent, while at the same time being off-the-wall with a dark dash of the Coens tossed into the mix. Although the script is written by other writers, there is still a clear Coen feel throughout the film, especially with the opening scene and Wheezy Joe.

There are times in the film when the Coens seem to rely too heavily on plot devices to move the story forward, but it ends up being an enjoyable film, one that I enjoy watching again and again.

Originally posted at Movie Zeal.