The Killers (1964)

There aren’t many films in the ilk as Ernest Hemingway’s “The Killers.” Though I’ve yet to see the Burt Lancaster original from 1946, “The Killers” is never without its assortment of merits and high points. You want cool? You turn to Clu Galagher. You want power, you turn to Lee Marvin, and lo and behold, “The Killers” teams both actors together to form a B grade thriller that’s stylish and entertaining. The duo Siegel’s film centers on are a searing team of hit men. Clu Galagher is bad ass, and Lee Marvin is just great. I can see why Quentin Tarantino would be inspired by this for his own characters Vinnie Vega and Jules Winfield.

Galagher is very much the model for Vinnie Vega here with his silence and persona performing the act of silence but never afraid to perform an act of violence, while Marvin is more in the Jules category; talkative and intimidating and really doing all the thinking for the both of them. Further pushing the inspiration, Lee is on the cusp of his new career, while Charlie is considering retirement and is using the MacGuffin of claiming the money, to retire on and quit the killing once and for all. “The Kilers” involves hired hit men Charlie and Lee who are on the hunt for Johnny North to find out why the man they killed didn’t run from them when he had the chance.

Through that they hope to gain a sizable amount of money. “The Killers” is a great pulp crime noir film that always attempts to rise above the considerable cheap production values. With a cast like Claude Akins, John Cassavetes as Johnny North, and Ronald Reagan, the film is a crime mystery that takes the best from every cast member and creates a hell of an ensemble piece. The performance from Angie Dickenson is especially eye catching as she plays a femme fatale who is one of many spineless characters that really never redeem themselves. True to form, Dickenson plays a sultry seductress who romances Johnny North and basically clouds his mind and ruins his career, all of which leads to a potential bank heist that she has a hand in.

Angie Dickenson is the lady MacBeth who draws her sympathies where ever the tide changes, and gets knocked around a lot for her traitorous methods she takes pride in acting on. One of the most surprising scenes involve Galagher’s quick deck to the face to Dickenson’s character which is probably one of the few times I’ve seen a woman get knocked around like an average man in a noir film. “The Killers” may not be the superior version of the Hemingway story, but sure enough it’s one of the better movies I’ve seen in years, and that’s due to marvelous cast, including Marvin and Galagher who keep the story at a raucous pace.