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This Gun for Hire

Released May 13, 1942 1h 20m Crime Drama List
94% Tomatometer 17 Reviews 81% Audience Score 1,000+ Ratings
Sadistic killer-for-hire Raven (Alan Ladd) becomes enraged when his latest job is paid off in marked bills. Vowing to track down his double-crossing boss, nightclub executive Gates (Laird Cregar), Raven sits beside Gates' lovely new employee, Ellen (Veronica Lake), on a train out of town. Although Ellen is engaged to marry the police lieutenant (Robert Preston) who's hunting down Raven, she decides to try and set the misguided hit man straight as he hides from the cops and plots his revenge. Read More Read Less
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Critics Reviews

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Ian Coster London Evening Standard An excellent thriller. May 26, 2021 Full Review Erik McCarthy Minneapolis Star Tribune The film's thrilling bullet-laden finale, fast pace and lovely black-and-white photography more than makes up for some of the overt misogyny that was common in this genre and era. Rated: 3.5/4 Feb 12, 2009 Full Review Josh Larsen LarsenOnFilm A sparse, harsh noir... Rated: 3/4 Mar 2, 2021 Full Review Kelechi Ehenulo Set the Tape There's a lot to unpack...And perhaps this is the very reason why This Gun for Hire has endured for as long as it has. It's a complex noir where rooting for a 'hero' doesn't have a clear line of sight. Rated: 4/5 Sep 15, 2020 Full Review Ken Hanke Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC) Catapulted Alan Ladd to stardom, established Ladd and Veronica Lake as a screen team and is just plain as close to a perfect representation of film noir as you're likely to get. Rated: 5/5 Oct 29, 2013 Full Review Emanuel Levy EmanuelLevy.Com Well acted crime melodrama that catapulted Alan Ladd to major stardom. Rated: B+ Jan 20, 2013 Full Review Read all reviews

Audience Reviews

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Matthew B Watching This Gun for Hire soon after watching Le Samourai and Léon the Professional, I cannot help wondering whether Jean-Pierre Melville and Luc Besson had been watching this early prototype film noir before they made those movies. The central character of This Gun for Hire is a figure that bears a strong resemblance to the hired murderers in those later films. His name is Philip Raven (Alan Ladd), and he treats the business of killing others with the same casual professionalism. This is evident from the moment we see Raven. He is getting out of bed, reading a telegram, loading his gun and putting on his tie. This is a job to him in the same way that going to the bank is a job for someone else. Raven is alone, and this is how he prefers it. He dislikes and distrusts humans, and refuses to form any ties: "I don't go soft for anybody," he says later. We only get to see him carry out one hit. He is paid to kill a blackmailer, which he does with cold efficiency. As the blackmailer has a woman with him, Raven apologetically says that he had been told that his mark would be alone, before shooting the unfortunate woman too. Raven does not have a rule against killing women, but he does have a softer side in relation to women and children. When he carries out his hit at the beginning of the movie, there is a little girl sat on the stairway. Raven realises that he should shoot this witness too, but he cannot bring himself to do it. His greater weakness however is over a woman, and like Léon this will prove to be his undoing. The contract killer cannot afford to form ties with others. However, also like Léon, she will prove to be his salvation as well as his downfall. This woman is Ellen Graham (Veronica Lake), a nightclub singer, and (rather less probably) a magician. Graham's profession is chosen to allow the film to include two song numbers, one of which is called Hocus Pocus (what else?), presumably sang by Lake herself. Raven meets Ellen on a train. He tries to steal from her, and she gives him some money instead. In order to avoid the police, Raven uses her as a decoy to get off the train, and he intends to shoot her, but she gets away. The next time that he sees her, he saves her life instead, and an understanding develops between them that never develops into a romantic attachment. This Gun for Hire was made during World War 2, and this was a time when the country was worried about traitors, and expecting everyone in the country to do their duty to help the war effort. Elements of this thinking creep into the storyline. The villain of this movie, Brewster, is a traitor who is selling poison gas to the enemy, making it a patriotic duty to stop him. Raven is not governed by love for his country however. He is only interested in avenging himself on Gates. "This war is everybody's business," Ellen reproves him: "Yours too." Whether or not This Gun for Hire is technically a film noir, it is certainly a prototype for one, and contains many of the familiar characteristics of the genre. It makes use of chiaroscuro lighting, that is to say, a blend of darkness and light to create its effects, giving many scenes a claustrophobic look. Sometimes the shadows even form bars. Raven seems typical of the film noir anti-hero too. He is a flawed man, involved in criminal activity, and his actions are morally ambiguous, but he will ultimately try to do the right thing, whatever the cost. Ellen is not a femme fatale in the usual way, as she is not corrupt or scheming, but nonetheless she will influence the hero to do things that are not in his interest. There are darker moments in the film intended to catch the audience off guard – the shooting of an innocent woman, and the killing of a cop. Corruption and criminality can be found in both high and low places. However This Gun for Hire is not merely of interest for its role in the development of a film style that would become very common in the 1940s and 1950s. It is a good film in itself, told with economy and pace, and with a more concentrated flow of action in the storyline than the other Ladd/Lane collaborations. Watch it and enjoy. I wrote a longer appreciation of This Gun for Hire on my blog page if you would like to read more: Rated 4.5 out of 5 stars 09/22/23 Full Review CodyZamboni Movie features the star making performance of Alan Ladd. A ruthless hitman with a soft spot for cats and blondes in trouble. Veronica Lake is beautiful and empathetic, but she's very tiny in stature. There's a silly evil mastermind plot that's a mess, and at times, the movie turns into a quasi musical with magic tricks, performed by Ms Lake. The movie works best when it stays in Ladd's lonely hit man world, as he is driven by revenge. Rated 3.5 out of 5 stars 08/12/23 Full Review Joe D Alan Ladd's best performance by far. Veronica Lake was sizzling hot. Laird Cregar was a brilliant fat man. Robert Preston's cop was par for the '40s but not believable. The story was a WWII flag-waving script with the best line in the movie being: "Japenese breakfast food for America". Too bad they didn't remake Casablanca with Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake :-) Rated 4 out of 5 stars 06/28/23 Full Review Kyle E Alan Ladd in his film debut. He and Veronica Lake together in their first collaboration of four films (the others being 'The Glass Key', 'The Blue Dahlia' and 'Saigon', the last of which the only one to not be a film noir), all at least watchable and serve them well. My love for film noir, though one could argue that the film predates it and that there are noir-ish elements. A film based on the novel 'A Gun for Sale' by one of the literary greats Graham Greene. They are reasons enough to see any film, let alone 'This Gun for Hire'. 'This Gun for Hire' to me was an excellent film, with a huge amount to recommend it. Not quite a masterpiece but close, and its mostly positive reputation is more than understandable and am more than glad to be part of the positivity. A film most notable for the performances of the cast and its stylishness, though a lot is right with it. From personal tastes, the ending was a touch on the heavy handed, the patriotic element being somewhat of an awkward fit, and over-sentimental side. Other than that, 'This Gun for Hire' is a winner. Ladd's film debut is quite wonderful, can't believe it was actually a debut when he gave a performance of such icy steel. Liked a good deal of what he did and it was sad that he died too young, and still consider his performance here one of his best as one of his most demanding and most intriguing characters. Lake brings iciness, charm and vulnerability to her role and is a more than good match for Ladd, their chemistry sizzles (though it sizzles even more in 'The Blue Dahlia'). Laird Cregar plays an utter slimeball to perfection. All the cast are strong but Ladd, Lake and Cregar are the standouts here. Credit is also due to Frank Tuttle in some of the best directing, whether visually, in direction of the cast and in keeping the story interesting and tight (all of which done never less than very well), of his career. Don't think he ever did better actually. 'This Gun for Hire' looks good, nicely shot with a lot of atmosphere. The script is taut and has an appropriate hard edge and the storytelling, while not quite as deep or as thrilling as Greene's source material, flies by and has the right amount of tension. At less than 80 minutes, would usually find that too short a length for a film but this is a not so common case of the length not being a problem. In conclusion, excellent. 9/10 Rated 4.5 out of 5 stars 11/15/22 Full Review william d I could look at Veronica Lake all day and Alan Ladd was a pretty cool guy. If that's not enough for you the movie is a slightly above average 1940s film noir. Rated 3.5 out of 5 stars 03/31/23 Full Review dave j The first film of seven movie Alan Ladd starred with Veronica Lake, the other six are The Glass Key (1942), Star Spangled Rhythm (1942), Duffy's Tavern (1945), The Blue Dahlia (1946), Variety Girl (1947), and Saigon (1948). Alan Ladd is a hired gun for hire, Raven and is double crossed, he seeks retribution on the boss who hired him. Rated 4 out of 5 stars 03/30/23 Full Review Read all reviews
This Gun for Hire

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Cast & Crew

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Movie Info

Synopsis Sadistic killer-for-hire Raven (Alan Ladd) becomes enraged when his latest job is paid off in marked bills. Vowing to track down his double-crossing boss, nightclub executive Gates (Laird Cregar), Raven sits beside Gates' lovely new employee, Ellen (Veronica Lake), on a train out of town. Although Ellen is engaged to marry the police lieutenant (Robert Preston) who's hunting down Raven, she decides to try and set the misguided hit man straight as he hides from the cops and plots his revenge.
Frank Tuttle
Frank Tuttle, Graham Greene, Albert Maltz, W. R. Burnett
Paramount Pictures
Production Co
Paramount Pictures
Crime, Drama
Original Language
Release Date (Theaters)
May 13, 1942, Original
Release Date (Streaming)
Aug 30, 2016
1h 20m
Sound Mix
Aspect Ratio
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