It was an outstanding, taut crime thriller film noir. It felt modern and fresh despite elements that would seem to date it: technology and manners of speech and society in the 50s — those elements that can sour lesser movies of the era that fall into obsolescence. Favorable comparisons can be made to Hitchcock crime thrillers, but also Fargo and even Pulp Fiction.
Narration, which can be an absolute bane (Vicky Cristina Barcelona and Y Tu Mamá También as prime examples), is used here as an effective tool, combined with a stark directorial style to rapidly deliver the salient facts of the case at hand. Kubrick goes about in a mathematical way to present the story just as it is and let the action speak for itself.
The story is about a group of men plotting out and executing the robbery of a horse racetrack’s cash-on-hand. Despite the matter-of-fact way the story is presented, acting and character development are also at work, to the point that empathy is drawn around the ringleader Johnny Clay, played by Sterling Hayden. Just enough warmth builds around Clay and a few of the other characters to round out and make whole this great early effort by Kubrick.
The Killing is an antidote to the languid non-stories often propagated in film nowadays; to borrow from AMC, “story matters here” — 8/10.