megan ☕️’s review published on Letterboxd:
73 minutes long, but every second of The Set-Up is there for a reason. The movie doesn't feel 73 minutes long, not because it drags, but because it's so dense and purposeful. Each shot says as much as a paragraph in a novel. The Set-Up is brutal, suspenseful and has the air of truthfulness in it's depiction of the boxing world. The movie invites you into the world and before you know it you're trapped, as though in a straitjacket, unable to leave no matter how much you want to by the end.
There's a beauty to the ugliness of the noir cinematography. The long boxing sequence is magnificentally choreographed. I would be surprised if Scorsese did not love this movie and looked at it while prepping Raging Bull .The audience members are shown as an animalistic horde or a lynch mob, much more frightening than the punches of the boxers or the gangsters. The faces are photographed in uncomfortable close-ups, and they shout right into the camera, as though it was at you in the audience. You can practically smell the cigarette smoke and sweat wafting around the boxing ring. The Set-Up is about the emotional toll and dehumanization of violence, but that is never said in words. It's conveyed through the faces of the boxers and the audience. It's told through the power of cinema.