feedingbrett’s review published on Letterboxd:
Review In A Nutshell:
Killer's Kiss is by far Kubrick's most difficult film to watch, with a plot that never at all goes anywhere interesting or profound, only to be somewhat redeemed by the final thrilling sequence that proves the director's craftsmanship of creating tension and desperation.
In comparison to Fear and Desire, Killer's Kiss is a less ambitious film, taking place in a familiar environment and featuring a story that is more grounded and superficial. Character development is lacking in this film and chemistry between the two lovers are nowhere to be found. A sense of danger was present during the first half of the film, but it never takes charge until the latter half of the film. Dialogue at times lack emotional impact, while others manage to maintain my interest; the narration over the ballet sequence was top notch.
Killer's Kiss seems to make up for the elements that were not present in his debut film, the lack of intense action sequences and a romantic interest. It shows that Kubrick is able to play ball with the expectations of the Hollywood system, but he does not bloom in this until his next couple of films. I did however enjoy the film's ability to take in elements of noir to illuminate its atmosphere, allowing the stakes to feel elevated and overall gives the film more character; though this is much more prominent during the second half of the film where crime elements are more prominent in the story.
The musical score for Killer's Kiss, composed again by Gerald Fried, was much more subtle here and does not attempt to overwhelm the audience with so much emotion. Certain moments feel natural because the score keeps its distance and acts as a support rather than a frontrunner. It goes hand in hand quite well with the film's photography, which was handled by Stanley Kubrick himself.
The performances in this film were much more natural than what was shown in Fear and Desire; it shows how much Kubrick has learned over that time and improved on aspects that severely hurt his previous film. Still, Killer's Kiss is not worthy of any high praise in this department, but it does hold up with Jamie Smith showing toughness but also minor vulnerability that allows his character to feel balanced and empathetic. The film's antagonist, played by Frank Silvera, felt cartoonish at time and lacked that sense of threat that I am supposed to feel when he is on screen, though his physical performance during the climax was entertaining and intense, so I have to give him credit for that.
Killer's Kiss is not the film that shows Kubrick at the best of his abilities but it is a slight improvement from his previous film, and is worth seeing if one wants to see the director's progress to greatness.