The Killers

Hemingway's grim story tells of two big city toughs, here gruff triggermen Charles McGraw and William Conrad, who invade a small-town diner looking for the Swede, a former boxer. When located in a dingy walk-up, the Swede listlessly lays back and takes his lead like he's already dead. What could lead a man to accept death with such numb indifference? That's the puzzle at the heart of this blood-pulsing noir, featuring thirty-three-year-old Burt Lancaster in his first screen role. When a small insurance claim piques the curiosity of investigator Riordan (Edmond O'Brien), he sets out to learn what it was that drove the Swede to his sorry end. Told in a series of punchy flashbacks, Siodmak breaks up time like a flurry of body jabs. A failed pug, the Swede, falls in with the 3Gs, the gang, the goods, the girl, but mostly the girl, seductively sketched by Ava Gardner. Lancaster's youthful demeanor bends to the blows as a man who could fight his rounds with a broken hand, but not with a broken heart.

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