The Killers

The Killers is not a film. The Killers is a genre without the filmic binding sustance. I use this analogy a lot, but film is context and content. Context is a cup and content is the drink.

The Killers
Written by Richard Brooks, Anthony Veiler and John Huston

The Killers is not a film. The Killers is a genre without the filmic binding sustance. I use this analogy a lot, but film is context and content. Context is a cup and content is the drink.

In this case, the medium of the motion picture is being used to hold not a drink but the flavouring. Just as films have genres, so do drinks. A film’s genre may be determined by any number of things. The Killers is used by the documentary Visions of Light as an example of the “film noir” genre, innovated by immigrant film-makers bringing their country’s style to Hollywood in an environment of American-bred wide-shot extravaganzas.

Cinematographer Woody Bredell shoots in wide shots to establish a scene and create tension, which is contrasted with the close-ups that make-up the majority of the film. The “noir” genre’s legitimacy or existence is debated by scholars and academic critics, but I take each film as an example of itself. The Killers is not a “noir” film. That’s not to say the “noir” genre isn’t valid, but that The Killers isn’t part of that genre regardless.

The Killers is really more of a crime film. Well, I say “crime film” – there’s certainly crime in The Killers as the basic premise, and The Killers is a motion picture, yes. But The Killers isn’t a crime film. This reasoning becomes apparent as soon as we simply go back to the drinking analogy – the medium is the cup/context, and the substance is the drink/content.

But in this case, the content and context don’t compliment each other. The Killers is a film showing crime, but the two are separate from each other. There’s no story to The Killers, nothing binds The Killers together. If The Killers were a drink, say an alcoholic beverage, the only ingredient present is the alcohol itself.

There’s no flavouring, no binding material, nothing that makes The Killers consumable. The Killers is gratuitous genre-making. German director Robert Siodmak was clearly wanting to make a noir film, but didn’t understand that every film at least must have basic, universal elements. There are some potential exceptions to that idea, but I’ve yet to honestly see them.

Siodmak didn’t seem to grasp the requirement for a film to have a proper story, to be driven by some sort of intention, to be paced, to have a consistent style and to know what kind of film it wants to be. But The Killers doesn’t do any of these things. Instead, The Killers is an excuse to make a genre, without the “film”-ness being there. And without that fundamental aspect being present, how can I be expected to consume The Killers?

The flashbacks are never clearly defined apart from the action, the characters are indistinct from each other and there are far too many scenes in-which other characters crank the story to a halt in order to explain to the audience what they just watched. It comes-across as a weak attempt to justify its lack of self-interest. As a film, The Killers is un-confident and self-conscious, paranoid that I don’t like it. Which is why I don’t.

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Author: the Purple Prose Mage

I'm not Batman, but I wish that I were.

4 thoughts on “The Killers”

      1. Although I do have a thing for movie catastrophes, “bored to tears” is a warning I take seriously. Thanks for the clarifying… maybe I’ll catch up with it another time. :/


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