Re-watching the Classics: The Set-Up

Here is a short film noir of only 73 minutes long, which takes place over those same 73 minutes.  This is Directed by Robert Wise and stars Robert Ryan as our main character.  Ryan plays Stoker, an over the hill boxer hoping to make one last run as a fighter.  Audrey Totter plays Stoker’s wife who wants him to stop fighting before he is hurt to bad. We start out with our couple in their apartment as Stoker gets ready to head to the arena.  He gives his wife a ticket to watch the fight, she makes one last effort to stop him from fighting to no avail.  Stoker gets into the locker room to start getting ready for his main event fight.  We meet a varied crew of fighters in different stages of their career.  It is almost like Stoker is reliving his past and looking into his near future as the fighter come and go, before and after their bouts.  We get to see so many great character actors of the classic noir era in this locker room.  Names such as George Tobias, Wallace Ford, Percy Helton, James Edwards and David Clarke.  We have a hodge-podge of fighters, trainers, promoters and gangsters coming and going through out the night. Stoker’s team and his opponents team have agreed that Stoker will throw the fight for the gangster named Little Boy played by Alan Baxter.  The problem is, nobody told Stoker!  Will he learn before it is too late to throw the fight?  If he does learn about the set-up will he agree to do it?  Will Stoker’s wife show up to watch the bout? As I have stated before, the more I watch Robert Ryan’s films the more I like him.  He did such a wide range of characters, it is hard to believe he could be so versatile.  The only common thread when Ryan is in a film, he will always be tough as nails.  This film is so unique and so great, I think everybody should see this at least once if you are a film lover at all.  If you are a noir fan it is a must see and if you like Ryan you probably already seen this, if not drop everything and do it now! Do you think this was a big influence on Quentin Tarantino’s story line in Pulp Fiction revolving around Bruce Willis’ character?  I can’t help but see many similarities between Willis and Ryan’s characters.  What do you think?

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4 thoughts on “Re-watching the Classics: The Set-Up

  1. I’m a big Robert Ryan fan too.

    the more I watch Robert Ryan’s films the more I like him. He did such a wide range of characters, it is hard to believe he could be so versatile. The only common thread when Ryan is in a film, he will always be tough as nails

    You might be interested to see him, if you haven’t, in the Nick Ray movie On Dangerous Ground (1951); he starts off hard as nails — harder, even — yet under the influence of a blind woman (the wonderful Ida Lupino) he learns the error of his ways. There’s also a late movie, La Course du Lièvre à Travers les Champs (1972; vt . . . and Hope to Die), with Jean-Louis Trintignant, in which Ryan’s character should be hard as nails — he’s leader of a criminal gang — but eventually proves to be a bit of a softy, really. It’s a wonderful playing against type for both actor and role.

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  2. I have seen On Dangerous Ground, but it has been awhile. I will look for La Course du Lièvre à Travers les Champs. Thanks for the recommendation, I look forward to seeing it.

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  3. This is one of my favorite films with Robert Ryan and I have seen this film numerous times.
    The entire atmosphere around the boxing world and the performances makes this a favorite.
    It’s a tough film to watch but as you mentioned Robert Ryan is a masterful actor.

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  4. I’m not sure why The Set-Up isn’t talked about in the same hushed tones as films like Night in the City. Robert Ryan’s performance packs a hell of a punch and the pacing, anticipation, and the dread simply don’t let up.

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