Film / The Killing

The Killing is a 1956 Film Noir by Stanley Kubrick that follows the last heist of career criminal Johnny Clay (Sterling Hayden). With 2 million dollars at stake in the racetrack counting room Clay sets up an elaborate plan to get the money and get everyone involved their share. At the time of the heist the film splits off to show the perspective of every character involved in the heist.

"The Killing" has become a Cult Classic and is considered to be Kubrick's first masterpiece.

The 1996 collaboration between musicians John Zorn and Eugene Chadbourne, "In Memory of Nikki Arane" (1996), is a reference to a character from The Killing and also featured on the cover.

Provides examples of:

  • Alas, Poor Villain: Johnny at the end, when his entire scheme is blown and he finds himself being confronted by two undercover policemen. His girlfriend urges him to run, but Johnny shamefacedly gives it up right there.
  • Anti-Hero: Johnny Clay.
  • Asshole Victim: Randy Kennan, Sherry, Val, and Val's gunman.
  • The Bartender: Mike O'Reilly.
  • Berserk Button: George gets two of these: When Sherry is implying to him that Johnny raped her, and when Sherry's lover, Val, tries to stick the criminals up, demanding to know where the money is as well as George the "jerk." George angrily responds with, "The jerk's right here!" and guns down Val and his assistant gunman.
  • Briefcase Full of Money: Bursts open at the worst possible time.
  • The Caper: The robbing of a racetrack counting room.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Sebastian the poodle.
  • Chiaroscuro: Especially prominent in scenes with George Peatty.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Sherry fits this trope to a T, especially in her first scene.
  • Dirty Cop: Officer Randy Kennan is part of the crew.
  • Film Noir: Stanley Kubrick's take.
  • The Film of the Book: Based on the novel Clean Break by Lionel White.
  • Genius Bruiser: Maurice Oboukhoff, played by professional wrestler Kola Kwariani, spends his time playing chess when he isn't holding his own against 6 or so mooks.
  • Grievous Bottley Harm: Maurice gets a beer bottle cracked over his head during the fight. He doesn't even seem to notice.
  • Henpecked Husband: George.
  • Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain: Elisha Cook, Jr. at his most Ineffectually Sympathetically Villainous.
  • Ironic Echo: "Just one big joke without a punchline..."
  • Kill 'em All: Only Johnny and Fay survive to the end of the movie, but Johnny is presumably captured by the police to pay the price for his crime. Maurice also lives, but not without a beating from about eight cops that he almost wins.
  • Loan Shark: Policeman Randy Kennan's reason for joining the caper.
  • Malevolent Masked Men: Johnny Clay wears a clown mask and hat at the climax of the caper.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Sherry. She had poor George wrapped around her finger the entire time.
  • Narrator: Done in a very serious Dragnet style, with some unnecessary detail, like telling the audience that a character arrived at the bus station at exactly 11:19.
  • Not-So-Harmless Villain: In hindsight, George actually kills the most people in the movie, shooting his wife's lover and his assistant gunman, as well as his own wife as revenge for her lurid affair.
  • Punch Clock Villains: Everyone involved in the caper except Johnny Clay.
    "None of these men are criminals in the usual sense. They've all got jobs, they all live seemingly normal, decent lives. But they've got their problems and they've all got a little larceny in them." - Johnny Clay.
  • Senseless Violins: Johnny gets a gun into a motel room by hiding it in a guitar case.
  • Sexy Discretion Shot: Done with Johnny and his lover, Sherry and her lover, and Sherry and George.
  • Simultaneous Arcs: During the heist.
  • The Stoic: Johnny.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Sherry is cheating on George. It's not at all clear why she married him in the first place.