After 35 years and I don’t know how many film classes, I finally got around to seeing The Killers. What a completely bad-ass movie this is. It’s already one of my favorites, and I’ve already decided I’m probably never going to see it again, because nothing could be as cool as watching it all unfold on screen for the first time.
Everything about the movie just somehow oozes cool, even more than other film noir that just comes across as trying too hard. Even though all the guys wear ties that don’t go down further than their nipples and pants pulled up to their navels, and the fact that the entire movie comes across as a long promotional spot for the insurance industry, that somehow inexplicably reverses on itself and makes the movie even cooler.
The cinematography’s the highlight. From the first shot of a mysterious car pulling into a dark gas station in Brentwood, to a rooftop interview with the police lieutenant, to a shot of the Swede jumping down from a farmhouse loft, to my favorite, the funeral against a fantastic cloudy background where every shot is composed perfectly. When people go on about the look of movies in black and white as being impossible to reproduce in color, this is exactly what they’re talking about.
And the “lesser” performances stand out, too — Edmond O’Brien is a great, always clever and always likable protagonist, even though Burt Lancaster gets top billing. And the screenwriters manage to extrapolate a really engaging double-cross out of the short story. Even though the movie really just boils down to a standard detective story told through flashbacks, I always felt like something fantastic was just about to happen, and I was never disappointed.