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The Killers

1964 1h 35m Crime Drama List
80% Tomatometer 25 Reviews 71% Audience Score 2,500+ Ratings
A hit man (Lee Marvin) and his partner (Clu Gulager) try to find out why their latest victim, a former race-car driver (John Cassavetes), did not try to get away. Read More Read Less
The Killers

What to Know

Critics Consensus

Though it can't best Robert Siodmak's classic 1946 version, Don Siegel's take on the Ernest Hemingway story stakes out its own violent territory, and offers a terrifically tough turn from Lee Marvin.

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Critics Reviews

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Richard Brody New Yorker Siegel's terse, seething, and stylish direction glows with the blank radiance of sheet metal in sunlight; the movie's bright primary colors and glossy luxuries are imbued with menace, and its luminous delights convey a terrifyingly cold world view. Aug 28, 2017 Full Review TIME Magazine Perhaps the sole justification for turning a fine old movie into a just passable new one can be summed up as Angie Dickinson. May 23, 2011 Full Review Variety Staff Variety Ronald Reagan fails to crash convincingly through his goodguy image in his portrayal of a ruthless crook. Mar 26, 2009 Full Review David Nusair Reel Film Reviews ...a mostly satisfying adaptation that fares better than one might've initially anticipated. Rated: 3/4 Mar 9, 2021 Full Review A.S. Hamrah n+1 Marvin is the un-McQueen. Not handsome, unconcerned with the audience and therefore compelling, he is distant and takes things personally. He's too smart to be monumental like other movie stars, but when he falls it's like a world got killed. Nov 29, 2018 Full Review Eric Melin Scene-Stealers.com This low-budget neo-noir is really a different kind of riff on the Hemingway story's themes and the genre. It also serves as a bit of foreshadowing for Seigel's violent 1971 hit Dirty Harry. Rated: 3/4 Oct 7, 2015 Full Review Read all reviews

Audience Reviews

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Scott M Don Siegel before he had the freedom to direct the way he wanted made a few terrible films. This is one of them. The music is so God-awful 1960's Batman and Robin that I wanted to watch it with the sound off. The set peices are straight out of cookie cutter Hollywood sets. The acting by Dickinson, Marvin and Casavettes is good. Reagan is his usual wooden statue of a man. Even Tarantino says this was made like a TV show. Rated 1.5 out of 5 stars 05/15/24 Full Review Alec B More brutal than the first adaptation from the 40s which leads to some interesting new perspectives on the source material. Also Reagan ended his movie career as a villain here, make of that what you will. Rated 4 out of 5 stars 02/21/24 Full Review keith w Another typical tightly directed and written low budget Don Siegel film. Originally a TV movie it was deemed too violent for broadcast and released theatrically instead, though there is only one murder until the last few minutes. It's a film noir filmed in bright harsh light and it changes the point of view of the Lancaster/Gardner 1946 film by telling it from the point of view of the two hitmen - and I think this works brilliantly. The film really crackles when Marvin and Culager are on screen - less so with the unconvincing car driving shots. With Angie Dickinson as the most fatal of femmes fatales, wooden Ronald Reagan is out of his depth in this acting talent. Fortunately his part is less important than the other leads. Marvin and Gulager are violent in their pursuit of the money - and that includes with Dickinson. There's no gender bias with these two. But Marvin is also seeking understanding. The brilliance of the film is that as the clever plot unfolds you end up rooting for the hired killers and Marvin has a great closing line. Apparently John Cassavetes was seething with resentment being directed by another director. Rated 4.5 out of 5 stars 03/31/23 Full Review Audience Member More brutal than the first adaptation from the 40s which leads to some interesting new perspectives on the source material. Also Reagan ended his movie career as a villain here, make of that what you will. Rated 4 out of 5 stars 02/13/23 Full Review matthew d A visceral blast of action and intrigue. Don Siegel's crime drama mystery The Killers (1964) subverts your expectations from Robert Siodmak's 1946 film noir original adaptation of Ernest Hemingway's short story with a cunning twist. Siegel tells the story from the perspective of the two hired assassins learning about who the man they killed was and why he didn't try to flee death once they came for him. It's an interesting shift that lets you contemplate fate and fatalism while you watch Lee Marvin shoot people with a massive silencer pistol. Siegel's direction is moody and playful as he's well aware the audience has likely seen the original, and so he keeps it fresh by switching things around. The killers are now investigating the murder out of morbid curiosity and for their own greed, other character witnesses are more regretful, and the boxing gig is now a fast paced car race job. All the killing aside, The Killers is super entertaining with a dark sense of humor over having two professional hitmen make threats for Hemingway's compelling story. Lee Marvin steals the show as the older, sly killer Charlie Strom with his hypnotically deep, gravelly voice and fearsome in your face threats. His acting performance in The Killers rivals his Liberty Valance or Point Blank performance for lethality and menace. Clu Gulager is funny as the charming and vicious young contract killer Lee alongside Lee Marvin's ruthless Charlie. They have amiable chemistry as like minded murderers. John Williams' eerie score blasts you like Lee Marvin's fearless bullets. Angie Dickinson is excellent as the femme fatale Sheila Farr with her hurt eyes full of longing and self preservation. She plays the role even colder than Ava Gardner's original Kittie. She looks gorgeous in Helen Colvig's classy mod costumes. Bud Westmore's make-up look both raw for the men and stunning on Angie Dickinson. John Cassavetes is passionate and proud as The Swede instead of Burt Lancaster's dour leading man. Cassavetes is natural and sympathetic as the foolish Johnny North. Claude Akins is moving as Cassavetes' old friend Earl Sylvester. Norman Fell is strange and fun as Mickey Farmer. Notably, Ronald Reagan gives his greatest dramatic performance in The Killers as criminal mastermind and sinister heavy Jack Browning. I found it cute to have Virginia Christine cameo as Miss Watson as she played Lilly in the original film. Richard Belding's editing is swift with quick cuts from car chases to gunfire or distant memories. Belding's job as editor keeps you guessing for a briskly paced 93 minutes of carnage and lovelessness. Richard L. Rawlings' cinematography is fascinating with odd angles and low perspectives that ground this story in a suspenseful wonder. You never know when a gun will fire off killing yet another victim. Rated 5 out of 5 stars 03/31/23 Full Review Audience Member Pulp Fiction fans will love this ancestor to Tarentino's hitman classic. Lee Marvin and Clu Gulager are terrifically tough as sinister slayers. Angie Dickinson is WOW and Ronald Reagan as the brains behind the crime is MAN-O-MAN. The direction by Don Siegel is fascinating. Originally slated to be a TV movie Of The Week (changed because of the film's violence) Siegel shot the film with TV-type lighting and extreme close-ups. It all works for me! POST SCRIPT: I'd love to see more filmmakers take the original Hemmingway premise - two hit men kill their target who submits without resistance, why? - and add their own second and third acts, like Siegel did here. Rated 4.5 out of 5 stars 02/13/23 Full Review Read all reviews
The Killers

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Cast & Crew

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Movie Info

Synopsis A hit man (Lee Marvin) and his partner (Clu Gulager) try to find out why their latest victim, a former race-car driver (John Cassavetes), did not try to get away.
Director
Don Siegel
Producer
Don Siegel
Genre
Crime, Drama
Original Language
English
Release Date (DVD)
Feb 18, 2003
Runtime
1h 35m