Monday, October 25, 2010

The Killers (1964)

From AFI:
"Charlie and Lee, two hired killers, go to an institution for the blind where they shoot Johnny North, a teacher there. Curious to know why they were paid so highly to kill a man who made no resistance and suspecting that North had been involved in a million-dollar robbery some years earlier, the killers piece together his past and begin following his former associates in hopes of finding the money."

Robert Siodmak's 1946 version of THE KILLERS is one of those films, like THE SEARCHERS that keeps getting better each time I watch it. And this film is as much an adaptation of the first film as it is of the Hemingway short story, since most of the narrative of the first film was added by screenwriter Anthony Veiller. What this film does, though, is take the investigation away from the "straight" world, and move it into the criminal milieux. Instead of following an insurance investigator, here we follow the killers themselves, tracking down the reason a man would choose not to run from death. It is an obsessive need to understand the human condition, or at least their little niche. This adds some interesting depth as we have a noir character tracking down and killing a noir character, then trying to decipher the dead man's reasons for his journey to noir. Lee Marvin is great, as always, and Clu Gulager, though over-the-top sometimes, is fun to watch. Even Ronald Reagan is pretty good in his last film before being elected governor.

Judgment: Noir.

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