The Set-Up

The Set-Up ★★★★½

The reaction shots and the looks in this— my God!— pure cinema.

I wholeheartedly believe The Set-Up features some of the best direction in the history of American cinema. It’s a masterclass in sustaining mood, directing actors, and using the camera to tell a continuous, flowing narrative of inevitability. Wise sees everything— every nook and cranny of the exquisite production design, every nuance in the charged dialogue, every psychologically complex glance. His camera carries the weight of the setting, the shades of noir, the literal and figurative life of the characters (or lack there of). The film not only looks incredible, but also feels incredible. It’s textured, full of evocative details and vividly stark black-and-white photography. You can see the influence on Hitchcock, Scorsese, Kubrick, just to name a few of the, ahem, heavyweights. Oh, and did I mention the story takes place in real time?

The “I won, I won” line echoes decades later in Raging Bull with “I never went down Ray. You never got me down.”

A masterwork.


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