Mr. DuLac’s review published on Letterboxd:
5 Directors x 5 Unseen Films – Round 1
Like the man said, "Can happiness buy money?"
An uninteresting story that is poorly structured and hampered further by wooden performances (at best) but brilliantly directed by a 26 year old Stanley Kubrick, this was his second feature. I'm not saying that to save myself from Kubrick fans as he wrote, produced, edited and directed the film so most of the faults still fall on his shoulders.
Being a film-noir by choice, the story is uncharacteristically simplistic for the genre and barely fills the 67 minute running time. The main problem with the structure of the story is that it all takes place within a flashback, which contains other flashbacks within itself. It causes awkward moments like a scene where the film needs to go from a flashback within the flashback to the present resulting in a forced pit stop in the original flashback before going to the present... the scene is almost as awkward as that was to write.
The performances leave nothing memorable. Jamie Smith has to be the most monotone character to ever appear in a Stanley Kubrick film. He makes HAL 9000 look like a goofball jokester in comparison. To make matters worst he has a voice-over running over most of the film. Irene Kane, the love interest, is just about as charismatic. It's her turn to have a voice-over during the brilliantly shot ballerina scene and she almost ruins it with her line delivery alone.
What makes it worth watching however is, simply put, the brilliant directing. Most scenes are pieces of art. Everything from the simplest scene like Kane going up and down a staircase to retrieve a paycheck to the last showdown of the film are all incredibly put together scenes that are almost ahead of their time. If you put another director behind the camera of this film it would be unwatchable, but Kubrick almost makes a great film despite everything working against it. You'd be tempted to say you can spot the seeds of greatness here, but really it's more then that, you can see some of them already sprouted.