Killer's Kiss ★★★

This sophomore film is drastic improvement from Fear & Desire, Kubrick's juvenal effort and halfway to the grown-ass man he would be on the next film The Killers. This is straight-up Noir, but with a blanc ending. The film begins with a great wordless fight scene, which is basically a new and improved version of his “Day of the Fight” short. We’re introduced to a set of Noir stock characters: the washed-up boxer, the taxi-dancer with a heart of gold trapped by her gangster club owner who’d rather kill her than lose her. The plot is predictable and melodramatic, and the dialogue is bad. Of course what this is missing is exactly what he found on his next film, The Killing -- a solid story by Lionel White plus dazzling dialogue and psychological depth supplied by Jim Thompson, andthe Lucien Ballard's cinematography.

The film is redeemed by the spectacular gladiatorial showdown in a mannequin factory between a pimpy gangster wielding an ax and the boxer a pike. It’s a tour de force action scene flirting cleverly with farce, that Tarantino would later master.

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