Sweet Smell of Success ★★★★

You're dead, son. Get yourself buried.

Sweet Smell of Success is ninety straight minutes of people manipulating each other and being about as cruel as possible without causing any physical harm. It's pretty great. Burt Lancaster is downright chilling as Hunsecker. His journalist character is portrayed more as a mob boss than anything, having an imagined grip on my gut every time he's on screen. Like films that would come afterwards such as Network and Nightcrawler, Sweet Smell of Success reminds its fellow viewers that the power of news media is equally inspiring and fucking terrifying. In America, we may no longer have a Walter Cronkite type figure on TV or online, but even in today's overcrowded news landscape, the right article can't directly kill its target, but it may as well.

What happened to dialogue like this? I consider myself a fan of more naturalistic dialogue commonplace in modern cinema, but there's something wholly enticing about this kind of theatrical writing that's mostly saying after saying. "The cat's in the bag and the bag's in the river." "You're a cookie full of arsenic." "You've got more twists than a barrel of pretzels." Akin to Johnny Guitar three years before it, have fun keeping track of all the whip smart lines you'll hear. Not entirely in love, if anything the pure dive in cynicism may be part of the reason, but this is at the very least masterclass characterization and dialogue at play. There's plenty of mean bastards out there in the world. if you're itching to write a story about said mean bastards, make Sweet Smell of Success a required viewing experience.

8/10

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