The Set-Up (1949)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Film Noir, Sports Drama  |   Release Date - Mar 29, 1949 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 72 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Robert Wise's blistering tour de force on the fight game, a key influence on Martin Scorsese's seminal Raging Bull (1980), remains one of the best films on that world. An undefeated boxing champion while at Dartmouth, Robert Ryan gives what's likely his best performance as the over-the-hill pug who balks when ordered by his manager to throw a fight. Wise throws the harshest possible light not only on the well-known corruption of game, on the seediness of the milieu, and the grueling punishment absorbed by the fighters, but also on the febrile bloodlust of the fans, for whom the director reserves his greatest revulsion. As the film unfolds in "real" time, it touches briefly on the range of boxers on that night's card, and from the nervous young kid to the washed-up middle-weight, all are equally mesmerized by the mythology of their craft. In the main event, Ryan absorbs perhaps the worst pre-Scorsese battering on celluloid. Noir icon Audrey Totter evinces an unexpected tenderness as Ryan's concerned wife, and James Edwards is poignant as a fighter on the slide.