“Sylvester, unless you want to renew your partnership with the late Johnny North, I suggest you tell us everything and anything we want to know.”
These are the words whispered into the ear of Sylvester by Charlie Storm, played by the timeless badass Lee Marvin. Originally adapted from an Ernest Hemingway short story in 1946, The Killers was actually a TV movie that was deemed to violent for the small screen, which then saw it’s release in theaters.
There are a few differences from the two adaptions, in which many view this as the superior of the two.
- Two contract killers, Charlie Storm and Lee, are paid to kill Johnny North, a high school teacher and former race car driver who is told ahead of time that the hit men were coming for him, yet he doesn’t try and escape.
- Charlie, unable to understand why North didn’t try to escape before they got there, looks to investigate Johnny’s past.
- In their investigation, they find out North was involved with a woman named Sheila, who was the mistress of a mob boss, Jack Browning (Ronald Reagan). They cut their ties once Johnny discovered this, yet offers to help them pull a heist on a bank,
- As the truth is coming together, the killers have turned front the hunters to the hunted.
What I Liked
- As a fan of director Don Seigel, I can see how he started to formulate his own directing style in this early work. He’s methodical in his pacing and really expoitls the violent nature of his characters in the blink of an eye.
- The complexity of Johnny North felt authentic. He’s a man driven not by passion but blind love, and he sacrificed his own common sense to obtain his desires.
- The character of Lee was an ntereguing one. He comes of as psychopathic yet we don’t see much malicious tendencies. Almost as if he really believes murder is just an everyday occurrence and it’s funny to him. Not complex by any means, but a nice twist to the story.
What I Didn’t Like
- Ronald Reagan was a terrible choice to play the mob boss. He made a living in Hollywood playing likable characters. The role he played in this film was utterly unconvincing and would have altered my view of this film greatly had he gotten more screen time.
Should You See It?
- Absolutely! As a matter of fact, you can watch it right below.