A Countdown of the 25 Greatest Gambling Movies of All Time: #25 -- "The Killing"

Other Oct 21, 2020

This is a daily countdown of the greatest gambling movies of all time ranked from #25 to #1.  Today's pick is Stanley Kubrick's The Killing, released in 1956, starring Sterling Hayden.

Sterling Hayden masterminds the robbery of Santa Anita Racetrack

The Killing is one one of Stanley Kubrick's earliest films, which was released in 1956.  He wrote and directed the movie at age 28.  

The plot involves a crazy scheme by a cadre of war veterans down on their luck to rob a popular racetrack (filmed on location at Santa Anita in Los Angeles) in what for the time was both unusual and disturbing to mass audiences, perhaps the main reason the film did so poorly at the box office and lost money.  The robbery plan calls for a sniper with a high-powered rifle to shoot one of the horses while running down the backstretch and – during the ensuing chaos – his masked accomplices burst into the racetrack cage and vault and steal $2 million in a heist.

Although it's a very dark film, and sometimes with labourous pacing and unnecessary dialogue, the final half hour is absolutely mesmerizing.  The movie even ends with an unexpected twist, something we'd expect from a Hitchcock thriller.  

If you can overlook its darker edges and dated cinematic elements, The Killing is a very good movie carried by the great hard-nosed character actor Sterling Hayden, who plays the grizzled and unsympathetic lead.  

The wonderful surprise ending, which almost seems like it doesn't belong in such a dark film, is not to be missed.  From start to finish, it foreshadows Kubrick's quirky tendencies and masterful work which came later, often mixing uncomfortable humour with disturbing imagery.

Writer-director Quentin Tarantino has cited The Killing as a significant influence on his 1992 film, Reservoir Dogs.

Here horsey, horsey!

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