W: Anthony Veiller & John Huston [based
on the story by Ernest Hemingway]
DP: Elwood Bredell
Ed: Arthur Hilton
Mus: Miklos Rozsa
Burt Lancaster (Swede), Ava Gardner (Kitty Collins), Edmond
O'Brien (Jim Reardon), Albert Dekker (Big Jim Colfax), Sam Levane (Lt. Sam Lubinsky), Virginia Christine (Lilly Lubinsky)
The Killers is a masterpiece of the film noir genre, beginning
with a nerve-shredding scene before unveiling the mystery behind the motive.
The opening scene features two menacing, heavy-set gangsters
entering a diner where they plan to undertake a contract killing on a man, known to the locals as Swede. After pressing one of the customers for information, they visit a nearby hotel to carry
out the assassination.
What follows is a startling piece of originality. The murder
is investigated not by a police detective, but by an insurance man. It is revealed (via flashback) that 'Swede' was a young boxer who becomes involved in the world of organised crime,
overseen by kingpin Big Jim Colfax.
Robert Siodmak's moody direction keeps the non-linear
narrative gripping, while the performances of the cast are all very good, especially from Burt Lancaster, in one of his earlier roles, and Ava Gardner, in one of her best ever performances as the
film's femme fatale. Miklos Rozsa's atmospheric score has since become quite iconic, especially after being used in the TV series Dragnet.