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The Lineup: A Movie Review

Updated on October 10, 2019
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The first step is to know what you do not know. The second step is to ask the right questions. I reserve the right to lean on my ignorance.


Let's talk a little about the 1958 crime drama, "The Lineup."

Folks, this is a good one: Let's call it a 7.5 out of 10.

My main quibble with the film is the title. I wouldn't have called it "The Lineup." There is a police line up that takes place, but it is such a small part of the film. It is a peripheral event that does nothing to capture the true spirit of the movie.

You see, a poorly chosen movie title, such as this one, actually hurts the movie. It gives the impression that the film is, somehow, smaller and on leaner scale than it is. In other words, the title does not really reflect how exciting the film is; the picture at the top, you are looking at is not the picture that is on the DVD box, of the film that I borrowed for free, from my local public library; it does not show, a fedora-headed Eli Wallach holding a gun, crouched in a posture of extreme tension.

I think I would have called the film something like: The Master and The Pupil; or perhaps, The Tutelage; or maybe The Protégé; or how about The Consultant or The Consultancy.

Wait, wait! What about: The Mentor and The Protégé.

You see, these alternate title suggestions are an attempt, on my part, to capture the spirit of the two most interesting characters in the film, with the most interesting dynamic operating between them.

The running time of the film is just under ninety minutes. Every time I see that, in a film like this, I say to myself: Boy, they sure knew how to pack a lot of story in a relatively short space of time, in those days!

Anyway, on with The Mentor and The Protégé. The two actors I am focusing on are, of course, Mr. Robert Keith.

And Mr. Eli Wallach.

These gentlemen play Julian (The Mentor) and "Dancer" (The Protégé), respectively.

Their relationship is fascinating and I would have liked to have seen more of it. Julian acts as Dancer's tutor, mentor, guide, teacher, consultant, coach --- as well as his criminal conscience, who usually counsels Dancer to restraint and moderation, but is perfectly understanding when his pupil sees fit to take rash action.

Julian also acts as Dancer's culture and sophistication advisor, always encouraging the younger hood to speak and dress in a more cultured, polished, sophisticated, professional, indeed, middle-class way; and to leave behind gutter, low-class vernacular and behaviors.

The other fascinating aspect of Julian's characterization is the fact that, incredibly, like Deadpool --- yes, Deadpool --- he "breaks the fourth wall," in a way, in that he is a criminal who consciously revels in it. He has darkly poetic soul; he loves to write down the last words of Dancer's victims, when the latter is forced to take rash action upon them.

Julian writes them down as Dancer relates them. There is mention of a "book." Does he mean to eventually write a book about the life of crime? Anyway, Julian seems to act as both criminal and psychological advocate of the criminal.

Now, as I said, I give this movie a respectable 7.5 out of ten, a strong recommendation. Robert Keith (Julian) and Eli Wallach (Dancer) are, far and away, the best thing about this movie. I wanted to see more of them.

The film does lose a few integrity points with me. That is because I was so disappointed to see how their relationship fizzled away at the end, during the climatic cops and robbers chase scene.

At one point Dancer asks Julian if he wants to stop and "shoot it out" with pursuing law enforcement. Julian replies that he has never fired a gun in his life. That disappointed me, because I don't see how Julian could possibly have earned the respect of a hard man like Dancer, if he, Julian, had not been a seasoned criminal who could handle himself when violence was called for --- that is, beneath his sophisticated, polished, middle-class, urbane veneer.

Dancer actually has occasion to turn on his former mentor, Julian, and kill him, as the former mockingly yells: "Say some last words for the book."

The reason this resolution was such a problem for me is that it seems to be a breach of narrative integrity.

There is a point in the film in which Dancer delivers a line of dialogue, which indicates that he and Julian had been operating together, as a team, for a very long time, perhaps several years. This same line of dialogue indicates that they had seen through on jobs of varying levels of difficulty. I would have thought their brothers-in-arms bond was sturdier than it proved to be at the end.

I could have told you something about the plot of the film; but you can get that anywhere. You can "Google" it or go to Wikipedia, IMDB, and so forth.

I just wanted to tell you that "The Lineup" is a bad title for a solid film noir, crime drama of 1958; and that the performances of Robert Keith (Julian, the mentor) and Eli Wallach (Dancer, the protégé) are, without a doubt, the best part of the movie; and I am strongly recommending this film on that basis.

Have a nice day!


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