Sterling Hayden as Johnny Clay in Stanley Kubrick's classic film noir, "The Killing."

U.S. Release Date: May 20, 1956

Running Time: 83 minutes

MPAA Classification: UR (Violence)

Cast: Sterling Hayden, Coleen Gray, Vince Edwards, Jay C. Flippen, Elisha Cook, Jr., Marie Windsor, Timothy Carey

Director: Stanley Kubrick

Producer: James B. Harris

Screenplay: Stanley Kubrick, Jim Thompson, based on the novel Clean Break by Lionel White


By STEPHEN EARNEST / November 10, 2011

Stanley Kubrick’s The Killing is a fine example of classic crime. It’s short, sweet, and to the point, but entertaining and well-acted.

The plot entails a heist that is carried out by a group of criminals. It is led by Johnny Clay (Sterling Hayden), who plans to carry out the heist and then settle down and get married. He gets a couple of other men involved and before long, the heist is ready to happen.

Where it takes a place is at the race track, which is a rather ingenious place to carry out  a heist, if you think about. The constant betting and large amounts of money make it perfect for being robbed. Most of the men involved in the heist work at the race track, so it’s logical that that’s why Clay hired them in the first place.

The Killing is brilliant in its own way. Many get turned off by older films. Since most post-1960 films aren’t very relative nowadays, they can’t catch the interest of most people. Well, The Killing is actually surprisingly modern for our time. And it’s very thrilling. From about twenty minutes in to that final memorable shot, you’re hooked, tense to know what happens next. Not many films can manage to do that.

Also, The Killing has some very true-to-life characters. Kubrick gives them some specified depth and you can almost connect to them in a rather emotional way, such as why they’re going to carry out with the robbery. Money can be such a powerful motive, and a hard one to overlook when there’s so much of it.

The final scene at the airport has to be one of the greatest scenes of all time: the dog barking, the money floating in the wind, the expressionless faces. All such iconic images. I wonder, whatever happened to class in the cinema? It seems to have all disappeared.

Of course, this film is undoubtedly legendary because of its director, but don’t look at it in that respect. Look at it not because of who made it, but because of what it is: a thoroughly entertaining thriller.