Will’s review published on Letterboxd:
Fascinatingly flawed early Kubrick feature film, I guess barely qualifying as one at about 65 minutes. Very contrived, cliche stuff (even contextually in the pre-existing landscape of mid-50s film noir), but strangely watchable and clearly the work of someone with an exciting, albeit unrefined eye.
It's pretty much a write-off in terms of performances and the characters are very cardboard, basically ripping every cliche straight out the book. The technical approach, however, is where the main interest lies. The cinematography (the film was shot by Kubrick himself) is fantastic, using predominantly natural light but in the same stylised spirit as you traditionally would shoot film noir (hard shadows, shutters, very high contrast etc). The use of handheld camera is one of the most successful results of the shoot too - a pretty uncommon sight in a lot of film noir, especially those directed by the old guard (Hawks, Huston etc). I think the real standout here though is Kubrick's deliriously grimy depiction of early 50s New York. It really was FILTHY, but a brilliantly cinematic kind of filthy and one I wish we got more of. Jules Dassin did a few films in similar vain but in all truth they weren't really that much better than Killer's Kiss. Lots of striking early composition too (the mirror shot in the apartment is ingenious), although you get the sense Kubrick hadn't yet learnt economy and there are a few pretty shots that are unnecessary/outstay their welcome; the kind of thing that would end up on the cutting room floor pretty much straight away in his later years. The climax - a fight in a warehouse that's a sea of shop dummies - is such a bizarrely brilliant non-sequitur too.
The leap from KK to The Killing is quite remarkable though, the latter a genuinely magnificent deconstruction of the genre beyond a simple reproduction like we get here, and of course buoyed by the know-how of much better actors. Enjoyable though, and if you're even remotely interested in Kubrick there's an absolute wealth of stylistic design and imagination that's just an absolute treat to sit back and watch in its infancy.