The Set-Up (1949) Robert Ryan, Audrey Totter, George Tobias, Alan Baxter Movie Review

The Set-Up (1949)   4/54/54/54/54/5

Robert Ryan in The Set-Up (1949)

Robert Bobs and Weaves

Stoker (Robert Ryan) has been in the boxing ring since he was a teenager and now in his 30s he is just another name on the fight card. Despite his wife Julie (Audrey Totter) pleading with him to call it a day before he is serious hurt Stoker still believes he has it in him to land one great punch and force his way into contention for a shot at the title. It is not something which his manager Tiny (George Tobias) agrees with and does a deal with the mob manager of a true contender for Stoker to take a fall in their fight. But rather than tell Stoker of the set-up and cut him in he just takes it that he will lose.

"The Set-Up" last 73 minutes and if you were to take off the credits I am sure you will find it runs to 71 minutes. The reason why I say that is because the movie starts with a view of a clock and it ends with the same clock which shows it is 71 minutes later. So yes "The Set-Up" runs in real time but it is by no means a gimmick which they play upon and it is only if you are really paying attention that you might realise it.

George Tobias in The Set-Up (1949)

So if "The Set-Up" is not about a real-time gimmick what is it about? Well it is about Stoker being the old war horse who despite his age and the concerns of his wife still believes that in his thirties he can earn himself a shot at greatness. There are other things, there is the nostalgia of an old fighter who remembers exactly what a young fighter is going through as he waits his first fight plus there is his wife who can't bear to watch. But for the majority of the movie the focus is on Stoker fighting with one eye on the prize unaware that his manager has stitched him up.

But there is of course something else to "The Set-Up" and we have the fact that Stoker is fighting the prize fighter belonging to a mob boss who doesn't care that Stoker didn't know he was meant to take a dive. I am not going to say what happens but there is a brutal side to this movie and in fact the fight scenes themselves have a raw power about them which makes you wonder whether they were choreographed or just two actors really going for it. I will go as far to say the whilst you might see prettier boxing matches in more recent movies which benefit from modern camera work the rawness of the boxing in this surpasses much of it.

What this all boils down to is that "The Set-Up" is a surprisingly engaging movie which deserves to be better known as it has a surprising raw power to it and an engaging performance from Robert Ryan.

Tags: Boxing Movies