Zoë 🐝’s review published on Letterboxd:
Short and almost play-like film about an aging boxer defying everyone in his final fight. Uses the 72 minute runtime perfectly, and Robert Ryan is great as he usually is. Audrey Totter is compelling, she's an utterly watchable actress, though she's too campy when playing off of Ryan's naturalist style.
This is the second old film I've watched about boxing that is really critical of the sport, the other being 1956's The Harder They Fall. THTF focuses more on the sport as a sham with the boxers as exploited victims. The Set-Up elevates Ryan's Stoker Thompson from victim to protagonist, victimized by the terrible system of boxing (how it causes brain damage and destroys one's body for other people's entertainment, is only a viable career option until your 30s). He's a victim trying to succeed in the system that is destroying him. The Set-Up is also deeply critical of the audience of boxing, to great and mediocre success. The message that boxing turns normal people vicious and violent, and makes them dehumanize the boxers, is perfectly delivered. The people it makes this point through, like a character named The Glutton who we're supposed to disdain because he eats constantly...less effective. Demonstrate the rabidity of the crowds without getting high and mighty about the seven deadly sins!
Overall, it's a tight movie delivered with a punch!