Burt Lancaster and Ava Gardner smoulder in this film noir classic adapted and expanded from the Ernest Hemingway short story.
Directed by the great Robert Siodmak and scripted by future directors John Huston and Richard Brooks with Anthony Veiller, The Killers expands the eponymous short story by Ernest Hemingway to create a stone-cold film noir classic. The opening scenes of the film present a faithful adaptation of the classic Hemingway story, as two hitmen arrive in a small town to bump off Ole “The Swede” Andreson (Burt Lancaster, making his screen debut), a pump jockey at a local gas station who seems eerily resigned to his fate. The film then switches tracks as a dogged insurance investigator (Edmond O’Brien) inquires into the Swede’s background, turning up a tangled trail involving a crime kingpin (Albert Dekker), a payroll robbery, and a seductive femme fatale (Ava Gardner). Though the eerie opening and the centrepiece robbery (filmed in a single take) are the film’s greatest claims to fame, The Killers is also notable for presenting a very different Lancaster from the grinning, all-American hero persona he would soon become identified with. Haunted and desperate, his muscular frame a striking contrast to his character’s morbid passivity, he’s a fascinating choice to play a weak-willed fall guy; Siodmak and Lancaster would play on this dynamic once again in their even better follow-up Criss Cross.
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