Wednesday, May 11, 2005

The Killing

[Pic Courtesy IMDb]

The Killing is Stanley Kubrick's early entry in the heist genre. A wonderfully constructed heist movie, the film is even more admirable because of its age. What stands out in the rather short movie(its less than an hour and a half) is not the planning or the execution of the heist itself but Kubrick's directorial brilliance in picturising it. The film's attention to detail, picturization, construction and technique would have earned any director raves even today. So it is amazing that Kubrick did something like this almost 50 years ago.

Sterling Hayden plays an ex-con who plans the $2 million robbery of a racetrack. To pull it off, he assembles together a gang made up of a cashier at the betting window, the bartender at the tracks, a cop, a sharpshooter and a goon. Each of the gang members has their own need for the money and has a crucial part to play in the heist. But the cashier's wife, who is having an affair with a gangster, has her own plans for the loot.

Kubrick moves forward and backward in time for almost the entire picture, allowing him to show events happening at the same time in different locations, in parallel (Manirathnam used the same technique, watered down and much less complicated though, in Aaydha Ezhuthu). It has the potential to be confusing but he guides it with a firm hand, using a few events(like a particular race) as anchors for us to understand the timelines in the different threads. So we get different points of view of the same incident, depending upon who the current thread is focussing on. The technique ensures that the movie has our attention completely.

The Killing is mostly about the planning. We are in the shoes of each participant as he executes his part of the plan. A voiceover narration gives us the details as each character does the needful. The narration is initially a bit odd but we soon get used to it and it eventually becomes indispensable as the screenplay becomes more complicated due to the multiple threads.

Though the heist itself is quick, it allows to see how the execution of the individual plans proceeds in sequence, enabling Hayden to actually commit the robbery. And the repetition of the same time period from different points of view continues here too, giving us a clear picture of the role of each player.

We do get a peek into the personal lives of all the gang members but the ones who garner our attention are Elisha Cook Jr., as the cuckolded husband, and Marie Windsor, as his dominating wife. Their scenes are filled with delicious lines(mostly from Marie) and marvellously handled. His desperation for her love, even as she puts him down mercilessly, is almost tragic and the way she manipulates him when she needs something from him is brutal. Elisha and Marie trade most of the best lines in the movie.

The Killing too ends with the moral that crime doesn't pay. There's even a little comedy in the rather tiny reason behind the final stumble that separates Hayden and his money.

Like Rififi, The Killing too is a must watch for lovers of the heist genre. They just don't make 'em like they used to!


At 12:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i checked out "rififi" on an encore channel the other day...completely concur with ur was intriguing...and professional...
but was wodnering-- why were u so disappointed with "The Score?"

At 6:56 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

ram, dont remember 'the score' too well. just remember my reaction to it. thot the movie was too simplistic plotwise for a heist movie. very straightforward and was totally disappointed by the ending.

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