Steve G 🟨🟥’s review published on Letterboxd:
Kubrick must have liked this considering he didn't try and delete it from existence!
I can't imagine he would have been all that delighted with the first half of this film. It's really not very good. A muddle of flashbacks and flashbacks-within-flashbacks commentated on by a mundane voiceover and a plot that seems to be going nowhere, it's only enlivened by the most realistic looking cinematic boxing match that side of Raging Bull. A brilliantly shot scene, Kubrick makes it look enthralling and his 'fighters' look the business as well.
The rest of the time it's punctuated by some randomly inserted experimental shots that just feel like Kubrick going, "Hmm, I wonder what Jamie Smith looks like through a goldfish bowl!" and doesn't seem to be in a great rush to advance at all. My mind started to wander and I was starting to count down the minutes before I got the chance to start on a rewatch of Dr. Strangelove.
But then! It springs to life for a last half an hour that really was absolutely excellent. Exciting, unpredictable, and really quite violent, Kubrick from nowhere makes a nondescript drama into a riveting thriller. He also throws in an extraordinarily dangerous looking climax that sees Frank Silvera wielding an axe in such a fashion that he makes Willem Dafoe in Streets Of Fire look like he's armed with Mallett's Mallet in comparison.
It's an amazing scene that, while impressively violent, is also amusingly surreal taking place as it does in what looks like a mannequin assembly plant of some description. Smith fights back by hurling fake limbs at Silvera. It's worth the price of admission alone, but Kubrick builds up to that scene really well with a superbly filmed chase sequence and a murder that is shot in a German Expressionism style.
For the record, I've seen virtually no German Expressionist cinema but it's got shadows in it and the buildings look bent and I just wanted to look intelligent for once by saying that.
So, pacing isn't one of the strong points of Killer's Kiss, but in terms of analysing Kubrick's style and the evolution of it, there is plenty to go on here. In terms of storytelling, there's less to go on. But that last 30 minutes was extremely entertaining and he didn't make anything like in the rest of his career.