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The Set-Up back to product details

Boxing Life--and Fate
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written by talltale December 5, 2005 - 4:40 AM PST
3 out of 3 members found this review helpful
Robert Wise's THE SET-UP is so good that it make me consider reconsidering some of his later films that I have not thought were anything special ("The Sound of Music," "West Side Story," "The Andromeda Strain," "The Hindenburg," to name a few). But since "The Set-Up" dates from 1949 and the lean, mean era of R.K.O., while these other films are from the more bloated Hollywood of the 60s and 70s, maybe I'll stick with Wise's earlier work. In any case, this tight, small boxing movie does more in just 72 minutes than "Cinderella Man" accomplishes in 2-1/2 hours.

Robert Ryan, always good as the bad guy, is even better as the good one: full of quiet spirit, kindness, strength and courage. He's beautifully abetted by Audrey Totter (an actress I barely know, though she made nearly 50 films) and a crack supporting cast. The movie takes place in real time (unusual back then--even now, for that matter) and yet is alternately speedy when necessary and leisurely when appropriate. Full of symbolism that never seems heavy and rich, deep feeling for its characters (the room full of boxers awaiting their fight is a marvel), this nearly 60-year-old movie will probably seem just as terrific in another 60 years.

The DVD commentary by director Wise--who died just this season--and Martin Scorsese is a peach, as well. Wise's words about "fate" are interesting and thoughtful.)

It's a knockout!
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written by eifert July 13, 2004 - 1:07 AM PDT
4 out of 4 members found this review helpful
The Set-Up is a great example of film noir. Like The Harder They Fall and Body and Soul , boxing takes center ring. The film stars Robert Ryan as an aging boxer who loves to fight.

The film is shot in what appears to be real time. The film doesn't attempt to be realistic. Instead Paradise City and the boxing matches are exaggerated by director Wise to great effect. The city seems too seedy and dark. The fights have no breaks in the action. No fancy footwork - just two sluggers slamming each other. The actors speak in a tough guy lingo that also seems purposely exaggerated.
Red: I tell you, Tiny, you gotta let him in on it.
Tiny: How many times I gotta say it? There's no percentage in smartenin' up a chump.


Ryan is perfect in the lead. I'm used to seeing him play bad guys. Before seeing this, I considered Ryan sort of a pretty-boy Sterling Hayden. But he really was a leading man with a likeable quality.

This DVD viewing is the first time I've ever seen this movie and I think the transfer is excellent. A comment on noirfilm.com does suggest that the movie may have been brightened and not as dark as originally intended.

And how about the amazing commentary track? Robert Wise and Martin Scorsese! Wise, who has an incredible list of movie credits, impressed me during the commentary. During one scene there's a great shot of actress Audrey Totter's reflection in the glass face of a clock. She paces back and forth while the clock ticks. The shot is amazing. I quickly rewound to see what the director's commentary would say. Wise says, "Nice shot, huh?" I love it. A modern director would explain exactly how he got the shot or the significance of it. Wise fan Scorsese talks about how he felt when he first saw the movie in film school. Nice work on this aspect of the disc.

No other features than that. Worth the rental and a welcome addition to the latest DVD releases of film noir gems.

12345678910

(Average 7.31)
39 Votes
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