Killer's Kiss ★★★

Killer's Kiss finds a substantially more confident and proficient Stanley Kubrick behind the camera, turning a fairly typical B-film noir on the program into something worth a closer look, thanks to his refined sense of visual storytelling and what looked like a bit more cleverness in making due with having about zero budget to work with. With a dabbling of what was probably non-permitted footage of the live New York City of that era, it winds up being one of the film's biggest strengths, as the more naturalistic and documentary-like portrayal gives the film a lot of flavor that it wouldn't normally have had as a more straightforward studio work. Kubrick also begins to find his voice more and more, with an emphasis on smooth camera movement and a reliance on more natural lighting, giving the film a sheen that others of its ilk could kill for, and make it really hard to ignore just how much talent was bristling inside of the director, waiting for some crazy producer to give him a chance to really show what he could with a budget longer than a shoestring. As I said, it is a film that you're not really watching to be blown away by the story, as it's your average "down-on-his-luck loser happening upon a small chance at a better life only to get wrapped up in some fiendish criminal plot," and Kubrick isn't really making much of an effort to spice that plot up, nor is he doing too much with his actors to further liven things up, settling for merely acceptable or involving enough. That being said, this was the equivalent of a AAA ball player knowing he's ready for the majors, and makes it known as such with some riveting sequences, including a cleverly shot boxing match that features some wonderful camerawork and editing (in general, the editing is such a massive leap forward from Fear and Desire that it's hard to believe that the same guy worked on both), an initially disorienting flashback voiceover accompanied by a ballet performance that leaves a strong impression once that story reaches its big turn to cast a very different perspective on the what and why of its purpose, and a strong finale that starts with a gorgeous rooftop chase that culminates in a fight scene in a surreal mannequin storage. If no one was paying attention to what Kubrick could bring to the table after this film, it was surely their loss in the end.