Guest Movie Review: The Killers (1946)

killerseliBy Eli Sanchez
Guest Contributor
Silver Screen Capture

SaveRobert Siodmak’s The Killers (A) is a film noir based on an Ernest Hemingway short story and stars newcomer Burt Lancaster as boxer The Swede being gunned down in his small studio apartment willingly without a fight. The film is told mainly in flashbacks as an insurance investigator (Edmond O’Brien) travels around the small towns of Southern California trying to get answers. The investigation is more out of confusion as the beneficiary of his life insurance is to lady who owns the establishment he once rented a room. The film focuses mainly on the investigator trying to piece together leads to the Swede’s eventual demise as he goes from boxing competitor to working in the rackets with unsavory people. The film works well as a pastiche of different episodes from the Swede’s life as a boxer. We meet his best friend as a child (who of course is a respectable cop) and his ex-girlfriend who leaves him for the cop. The femme fatale Kitty Collins (every one of these films has one!) is played with sultry deliberateness by Ava Gardner. She uses the Swede to get him to steal all the money from a heist and they’re supposed to run away together. As the film evolves, we find that the Swede is more a victim of circumstance. He isn’t allotted a great life but finds an easy way out playing the numbers games and then getting in with the wrong people and falls for the wrong woman. The use of camera work — at times shooting from above at a downward angle — presents the idea that the viewer is trapped in the film with the Swede. The shadow effect of the lighting presents the Killers are both coming but already in the room with you. The film is one of the best examples of film noir and one of the early forays into this method of storytelling.

I've reviewed films for more than 20 years. Current movie reviews of new theatrical releases and direct-to-video or streaming films are added weekly to the Silver Screen Capture movie news site. Many capsule critiques originally appeared in expanded form in my syndicated Lights Camera Reaction column.

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Posted in 1946, Eli Sanchez

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