After boxer Swede (Burt Lancaster) is gunned down by a pair of contract killers, insurance investigator Jim Reardon (Edmond O'Brien) sets about piecing together the motives behind the murder. Swede's story is revealed in flashback - how he became involved in the crime world of Big Jim Colfax (Albert Dekker), only to be seduced into armed robbery by Colfax's glamorous moll, Kitty Collins (Ava Gardner).
This 1946 adaptation of Ernest Hemingway's short story adds well over an hour of new material to the original tale. The reason is, while director Robert Siodmak, star Burt Lancaster
, and an outstanding supporting cast are faithful to Hemingway's work, his story only takes up about 15 minutes of screen time. Burt Lancaster plays the doomed man sought by hired guns in a small town. Hemingway's bruisingly concise dialogue makes an early sequence set in a diner quite unnerving, but after the killers dispense with their prey, Siodmak turns to an insurance investigator (Edmond O'Brien) who looks into the reasons behind the murder. An exemplary film noir (complete with a fickle femme fatale played by Ava Gardner
), The Killers
is all mood and fatalism.--Tom Keogh