Mickey Spillane was a wonderful writer, the original page-turner whose books hit you over the head with something major on the very last page, something he did intentionally. Apparently, when his work was adapted to the big screen, the same rules applied.
Kiss Me Deadly has all the elements of film noir. And by all of them, I mean ALL of them. Every last thing you can cram into a detective story has been crammed into this one. Fistfights for no reason? Check. Brutalizing of witnesses? Check. Shadowy government agents warning him off? Check. Powerful criminals in the way? Check. Dangerous women? Check, check, check. Detective’s friend brutally murdered? Check.
It’s the kind of thing that works really well in a book, even a short one, because the author can take a sentence or two to explain what Hammer is thinking or why he feels justified in breaking the old opera singer’s records. He can even share his suspicions about who sent the knifeman after him and why. Also some of the omissions could be explained as well, specifically why Hammer, having a witness in front of him, doesn’t ask more and deeper questions.
Which is all a roundabout way of saying that what works beautifully in prose feels rushed and unbelievable in film. You really need to turn your mind off for this one.
But one thing you can’t fault it for pacing and fun factor. Like one of Spillane’s novels, this one keeps you hooked from the first second until the end. You won’t be reaching for the remote to watch something else, and it’s so rapid-fire that even the enormous plot holes zoom by.
So, did I enjoy it? Yes, enormously.
Is it a good film? It succeeds at what it aims to do very well. But it’s tough to sit down and analyze it without being critical of the stuff you noticed failing about the film as you were wooshed along in its wake.
Recommended for those who enjoy being entertained.
Gustavo Bondoni is a novelist and short story writer whose latest novel is a humorous fantasy romp through Ancient Greece… with monsters. It’s called The Malakiad, and you can check it out on Amazon, here.