This riveting, gut-punching boxing picture plays out in something close to "real time." We are locked in with an over-the-hill pug (Robert Ryan) as he arrives at an arena for a match against a younger opponent. What he doesn’t know yet is that his crooked manager has agreed to throw the fight for some gangsters–so Ryan has more than one battle on his hands as each bruising round goes by. At a lean, mean 72 minutes, The Set-Up manages to load the essential film noir themes into one potent package, excitingly delivered with no breathing room. Director Robert Wise would go on to make such mega-productions as The Sound of Music, which only makes you appreciate his economy here. And the movie’s a fine showcase for tall, craggy Robert Ryan, one of the great under-sung actors in American movies, who was a boxer himself before becoming an actor.
1949, B&W, 72 minutes