Watch Born to Kill
- 1 hr 50 min
Born to Kill, made in 1974, is a classic film noir with all of the genre's signature features: a sociopathic anti-hero, a femme fatale, and a seedier side of Los Angeles than most people are used to seeing. Directed by Robert Wise and written by James Gunn, this movie has a slow-burn start, but once the story picks up speed, it's hard to look away.
The film opens with a shot of a hotel, and we're introduced to our protagonist, a cold-blooded killer named Sam Wild (played by the fantastic Warren Oates). Wild is both charismatic and terrifying, with a somewhat unhinged demeanor that makes him unpredictable. He's in Los Angeles to carry out a hit on a woman named Fay (played by Candice Bergen), who's involved with a small-time mobster.
While in LA, Sam meets a cheerful nurse named Arlene (played by Joanna Cassidy), and they strike up a flirtatious relationship. Meanwhile, Fay has a sister named Helen (played by Kay Lenz), who is engaged to Fay's boyfriend, Marty (played by Andrew Robinson). When Fay is killed, Helen starts an investigation of her own, which leads her to the hotel where Sam is staying.
Detective Braxton (played by Robert Webber) is also investigating Fay's murder, and he eventually crosses paths with Sam. The two men have a tense confrontation, but Sam is not the type of person who's easily intimidated. He continues to play both sides against the middle and tries to use Arlene's affection for him to his advantage.
The standout performances in this movie are from Warren Oates and Kay Lenz. Oates portrays Sam with a quiet intensity that suppresses a cunning, sinister personality. He's a master of manipulation and violence, often luring those around him into conflicts they didn't want, then using those passions against them.
Kay Lenz, for her part, brings a vulnerability to Helen that makes her character sympathetic, despite the fact that she's engaged to a criminal. Her determination to uncover the truth about her sister's death is palpable, and it's impossible not to root for her.
One aspect of this movie that stands out is the way it portrays Los Angeles. Far from the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, this is a city of dingy motels, seedy bars, and violent crime. The movie does a masterful job of setting an ominous mood that envelops everything and everyone.
Another highlight of Born to Kill is the cinematography, which uses shadow and light to great effect. The wide shots of Los Angeles at night are stunning, and the close-ups of the characters' faces show every crease and imperfection. The score, by Paul Glass, is also excellent, conveying the tension and uncertainty that permeates the film.
Overall, Born to Kill is a gripping movie that's full of suspense and intrigue. It's not quite as well-known as other, more famous film noirs, but it's every bit as deserving of attention. If you're a fan of the genre, you won't be disappointed.