Let me start off by saying this film has beautiful cinematography. The uncomfortable close-ups of the blood-thirsty audience, the tense fight scene, the emotional train scene with Julie, the eerily quiet part when Stoker is trying to escape Little Boy’s goons, and especially when Stoker is backed against the wall with the criminals closing in; the scenes really create the distressing feelings and tension that embody the noir genre. The movie also knows when to add silent moments with no music or dialogue to engross the audience in the moment so we can think about what the characters are thinking and take in the environment.
The Set-up also tackles a lot of themes. Greed is introduced early when we see the young paper boy take over the old man’s spot and start selling papers. And of course there’s the greedy manager Tiny who creates this whole set-up predicament by not telling Stoker about the deal to lose on purpose. Tiny even scams Red (who looks strangely similar to Mickey from Rocky, coincidence?) out of some of the cut when he tells him the deal was 30 bucks instead of 50.
There are also the themes of age, youth vs. aging. We saw that with the paper boy and the old man but it’s most prominent with Stoker in the locker room. We see the nervous newbie on his first fight, the cocky experienced fighter, and the middle-aged, almost washed-out veteran who is Stoker. He’s too prideful to give up on the fight even after seeing that Julie didn’t show up and finding out it was a set-up all along. He wants to leave his mark. He wants to prove to people and himself that he isn’t too old. Stoker doesn’t want to face the fact that he is aging. He wants to believe that he is Luther Hawkins (the african american boxer), the youthful, strong, handsome athlete on the top of his game. They both say similar lines like: “I can feel it” and “It only takes one”. There’s also the more obvious symbolism showing this: when he gets knocked out, opens his eyes and see’s an advertisement for medicine saying “Are you over 35?”.
A great deal of the noir city is shown off. The dingy, gritty bar where drinking, lust, money, and dirty deals – the main subjects of the genre – are all introduced. As Julie walks through the neighborhood, we see her getting hit on, a shabby arcade, tattoo parlor, scamming salesmen, playful teens, dark alleys, couples, graffiti, clubs, and more bars; all the places present in the rough area of any city.
There’s a ton more topics about this movie worth mentioning but I’ll just save those for the our next essay.
P.S. Remember guys, plagiarism is bad!