The Killing

Stanley Kubrick's high-voltage suspense thriller (made when he was twenty-seven) stars big Sterling Hayden as an ex-con who masterminds a $2 million holdup of a heavily guarded racetrack. His cohorts include a colorless little cashier (Elisha Cook, Jr.), prodded by his wife's demands for more dough; a racketeering cop; the track bartender; a chess-player wrestler, and a grinning sharpshooter. The action is taut as it follows each man's role up to the point of the heist, which is given almost documentary treatment. And the film loses no acuity in its exploration of the domestic lives and personal motives of these weathered and weary, painfully average guys for whom crime is only a last-ditch stab at the American dream. Kubrick's direction of his own script is incisive, and Lucien Ballard's excellent cinematography is augmented by well-chosen stock racetrack footage.

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