Plot: Davey Gordon (Jamie Smith) is a prizefighter, but he tends to wind up on the canvas more often than not. But he has heart and despite his lack of success inside the squared circle, he always put up a good fight, so he manages to get booked on cards on a regular basis. Meanwhile, Gloria Price (Irene Kane) is a dancer who dreams of a better life, but finds herself trapped in her current situation, thanks in part to her sleazy boss Vincent (Frank Silvera). He is attracted to Gloria and while she resists his advances, he isn’t the kind of person to take no for an answer. When he assaults Gloria one night, Vincent finds himself confronted by Davey and soon after, Davey and Gloria spark up a romance of sorts. But has Davey crossed a line that will cost him dearly by going against Vincent, who takes his interference as severe disrespect?
Entertainment Value: This was the second feature film from Stanley Kubrick, but despite his relative inexperience and quite limited resources, Killer’s Kiss turns out to be an excellent movie. The narrative is told in lean, efficient fashion with no filler, but the story also never feels rushed. The movie runs just over an hour in duration, so there’s no much time to get all the elements across, but Kubrick does so and doesn’t sacrifice much depth or development in the process. I think the characters are well developed, at least the prominent ones and that yields benefits as the plot progresses, as tension builds and some twists unfold. The story is tight and hits the mark, but Killer’s Kiss also packs a mean visual punch and for those who appreciate dark, film noir style atmosphere, this one ticks all the boxes. The attention to visual detail is remarkable and the hand-held camera adds a fresh texture, making you feel like you’re in the middle of the grit and shadows of the city. I think Killer’s Kiss is a terrific movie and for fans of film noir and Kubrick, it is one you shouldn’t miss.
A movie with this kind of focused narrative needs strong performances, especially when there’s only a few prominent roles present. Jamie Smith is solid as our punch drunk lead, with a capable effort that hits all the needed marks. I wouldn’t rate it as masterful, but it does what it needs to do and when he gets a chance to run with the part, Smith rise to those moments. The more intense or emotional scenes are what pull out his best work here, without question. He also has the kind of tough guy persona to make us believe he could survive in this film noir world, which is an important element. Irene Kane is also good as the other half of the movie’s troubled romance, but like Smith, she doesn’t always have a tremendous performance here. Both Smith and Kane are a little wooden at times, but I think overall they do well enough. The show is stolen by Frank Silvera however, as he brings Killer’s Kiss the energetic presence it needs as the villainous Vincent. He does go over the top often, but it works and his enthusiastic turn really enhances his scenes. This is especially true in the famous mannequin ax battle, where Vincent really dials up the bad guy vibes.