Kiss of Death Review


With a title like this you probably won’t be surprised that this is a Noir movie. It’s certainly got that vibe from the start and you wouldn’t be wrong. It’s a solid film about the dangers of getting into the criminal racket. Once you go in, there’s no guarantee that you’ll get out easy and Nick learns that the hard way. It’s a satisfying adventure but one that didn’t play out the way that I thought it would.

The movie starts with Nick getting caught after his latest heist and taken to jail. The time for this one is going to potentially be 20 years so the DA, A’Angelo tries to strike a deal but Nick declines. He figures that the other crooks will look out for him. Unfortunately they don’t and his wife ends up dead with no money to her name. Nick decides to do the deal now but 3 years have passed and the opportunity is not the same. He has one shot to get back at the crooks which is to be a stoolie for the cops. He’ll find out info and bring it back to D’Angelo but of course this is a very dangerous job. The villains have a lot of pull and the crazy guy named Tommy on their side. One wrong move will not only destroy Nick, but his rebound girlfriend and his kids.

You can probably guess right off the bat that I was not a fan of the romance here. Look, Nick’s whole reason for revenge and making a deal is because his wife was effectively murdered due to the other crooks not watching out for her. She wasn’t given any money or safety. So then why he is suddenly going out with Nettie? What’s worse is that Nettie and her had a big fight shortly before her death and Nettie basically admits that she has wanted Nick for a while now. Nick’s cool with all of this?

With the title of the film I fully expected Nettie to be the big villain here. There would be a twist about how she’s actually the one who murdered the wife or something like that. It wasn’t a suicide but a frame up. It would have made a lot of sense but the film actually plays it straight which is just as bad if not worse. It’s bad for both parties but in particular it’s a bad look for Nick.

He should not be looking for another wife right now. It’s just way too soon after he’s out of jail. The romance is one of the weakest ones that I’ve seen in a while. He does well beyond that but it’s a big thing to sidestep. The movie is solid in spite of Nick, not because of him. I thought D’Angelo did a good job of giving Nick a lot of chances initially and then explaining that the offer wasn’t forever.

3 years later it makes sense that he would feel a bit sour, especially with how Nick treated him. I wouldn’t say D’Angelo did a good job of protecting him at all though. I can see why Nick didn’t trust him to keep them safe because the guy’s track record was just awful the whole time. Anyone could get past him and that’s absolutely not what you want to hear when there is a big mass murderer after you. Nah, escaping him was the right option here.

Tommy is the big villain and he certainly makes his presence known. He doesn’t like squealers at all and definitely doesn’t take any disrespect. It’s clear that beating him won’t be easy and the guy has a lot of experience. You get the feeling that being his friend is also pretty dangerous since he’s such a spontaneous guy. You may be friends with him one moment and then enemies the next. If you’re an enemy then you’re really out of luck.

I would say that Nick’s plan was extremely risky though and had a near 0% chance of working. There are so many ways it could have gone wrong. I suppose he didn’t have many other options at this point but even so, I wouldn’t say it was a good plan. It’s hard to picture it ever working again even if the scenario was played 100 times. When you’ve got nothing to lose you might as well give it a try, but that’s the only time to play this card.

The movie captures the sense of dread and danger that Nick feels when Tommy is on the loose. These old school Noir titles always knew how to build up a good atmosphere and this one is no exception. Nick knows that as far as he gets, he’ll never be safe. I do think it’s probably worth taking the odds and hopping on a train out of the state though. In theory back then the info networks weren’t quite as advanced so get out of the country and try to survive. Of course there are a significant amount of risks to that and he may be looking over his shoulder the rest of his life but I would wager that the odds are better than trying to settle the score personally. It’s a gamble either way of course.

The writing is also very solid. I like the dialogue exchanges here and it may seem like a small thing but a lot of newer films can’t always hold their own in this same respect. It’s all different eras of course and modern films have their good writing as well but sometimes you just want this classic way of speaking. That false politeness between the heroes and villains, the subtle digs thrown into each sentence. It’s difficult to replicate that.

Overall, Kiss of Death is a good Noir film but I do think it’s held back by some of the choices in the story. I just have a really hard time getting past the whole romance angle. It just feels so crazy considering how the whole plot was about getting past her death. What’s the thought process behind throwing this in? If it was solely because the movie needed some romance then that’s just pretty sad. Making Nettie the villain just made so much sense that I’m still shocked the movie didn’t go that route.

Overall 7/10

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