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USA 1949
Directed by
Robert Wise
72 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

The Set-Up

Robert Ryan plays Bill "Stoker" Thompson, a pug past his use-by date who gets doubled-crossed by his shonky manager (George Tobias) when the latter agrees with some mobsters that Stoker will take a dive but omits to tell him, thinking that he will be beaten in any case. Stoker however still has some fire in his heart and when he wins the fight and the Mob want pay-back.

Shot entirely at night (the narrative time span of The Set-Up is the same as the run time of the film: 72 minutes) with excellent black-and-white photography by veteran cinematographer Milton Krasner, the film tellingly evokes the low-rent world of lost souls that it is depicting. Although this is an intentionally small-scale film, Wise’s fine direction, particularly of the fight sequences, and Ryan’s outstanding performance are a powerful combination. The film not only anticipates the Left realist strain of 1950s film-making, most widely known from On The Waterfront , but is one of the best films about boxing ever made.




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