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THE SET-UP
DVD region 2. Odeon.

The Set UpFrom director Robert Wise - who’s career has run the gauntlet from Curse of the Cat People and The Haunting to Star Trek – The Motion Picture and The Sound of Music – come this gritty slice of cynicism that still feels as fresh today as it did on original release.

Unfolding more or less in real time, it follows washed up boxer Stoker Thompson (Robert Ryan), long past his prime and now so expected to lose that his manager and trainer don’t even bother to tell him that they’ve accepted a payoff for him to take a fall in his upcoming match – they just assume that’ll be the result anyway. For Stoker, this is his last chance – his wife, pleading with him not to keep fighting, is ready to walk out on him and he sees the hopeless dreams of those around him. As he waits his turn, he sits in the cramped locker room with fellow fighters – the punch drunk dreamer who comes back after one round not knowing who he is, the nervous kid throwing up before his first bout. During his fight, things don’t go according to the pre-arranged plan. But for Stoker, victory comes at a price.

This is a remarkable movie – rarely has the brutality and savagery of boxing (and it’s audience) been so starkly portrayed. The cast is outstanding, a bunch of tired, worn-out faces, too tired and jaded to care about anything anymore, covered in a constant film of sweat. It has the feel of a documentary and the inevitability of a tragedy.

While the scenes of Stoker’s wife Julie (Audrey Totter) avoiding the fight are a little too much like filler, the film as a whole is a tight, angry little item. Pretty much essential viewing.

DAVID FLINT

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