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Three good men - a broken boxer, an American veteran trying to win back his mother-dominated wife, and an air force sergeant married to a faithless actress - are corrupted by Miles Ravenscourt, an amoral "gentleman." Because they need money, they let Miles lure them into his scheme to rob a postal van with a large cash cargo. Written by
Mike Rogers <MICHAELPEM@aol.com>
Laurence Harvey and Margaret Leighton were married a few years after finishing filming on 'Only the Good Die Young' She was made a CBE, won two Tony Awards, and died in her early 50's. See more »
What did I do it for? Money. The money we were saving together, the money I was going to buy that shop with. And look what I got for my trouble - stone deaf in one ear, half blind and only one hand. What sort of a man does that make me?
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Intriguing heist film, which takes time to substantially explore the characters therein and their reasons for turning to crime.
The Good Die Young comes at you from the very beginning; a honking, blaring opening consisting of the front of a car filling the screen. We appear to be on the back of the vehicle in front, that sensation of being chased through the dimly lit public streets in the dead of night most certainly prominent. British director Lewis Gilbert begins his 1954 heist film in a stark and unmitigated fashion, that sense of having something you don't want right on your tail or looming over you as you attempt to get away; his film going on to document a handful of characters as disparate as they are desperate with a foreboding sense of the inevitable looming over each of their heads as they ponder a heist set against each of their respective financial situations. But where the opening is frank in its immediacy, The Good Die Young goes on to morph into a rather intimate character study about a handful of men brought together through the same reason to take part in the same task.
The film is ultimately about the allure of crime than anything else; those expecting a gangster film will be rather sorely disappointed, with Gilbert's film coming to resemble more a class drama than a crime genre piece. It's bookended by the men clustered together with tensions running high and a sorely undesired predicament looming, a clerk named Joe Halsey (Basehart) narrating to us how it was he and three others got to be occupying a rich playboy's car sizing up an object and wielding pistols; the finale a quite gripping trawl through the murky, cobbled streets of 1950s Britain as police officers; stray freight trains and unfaithful partners in crime each pose their own threats. It's here Gilbert proves he's just as apt at dealing with dramatic action set-pieces as he is engaging us with character: specifically, who's involved; what's at stake; who's going where, and why; the internal 'checkpoints' the characters must reach as well as the sorts of action that must be undertaken, the man having his characters in The Good Die Young pay special attention to both the methodical planning and dealing with each obstacle within an action set piece which needs separately dealing with during the final getaway.
Gilbert executed similarly effective craft later on in his career, namely when he was granted the helming of three separate films within the James Bond cannon. 1977's The Spy Who Loved Me saw an extended scene on board a tanker ship nearer said film's climax and required its lead to first get aboard; find some trapped hostages; recover them only to discover a wall of seemingly impregnable steel; find something which might destroy that; obtain it, and then follow through once again with the next course of action. The attention to such things were initially used to a lesser degree of success in 1967's You Only Live Twice. But in The Good Die Young, a similarly effective craft is evident behind not only the finale but the getting to this point; the film coming to resemble one long flashback told to us by the aforementioned Joe involving a whole group of people brought together through problems with money.
The film does its best to intrinsically link each man, each one being of a respective background in class and career; one of whom is a boxer named Mike Morgan (Baker), a man at the end of his stretch as a fighter
the ring-set howls and wails as another fatal blow is landed upon a
poor opponent much to the glee of the crowd echoing down below into the locked room as Mike sits there knowing one of his hands is on the brink of being seriously damaged as it is. Meanwhile, American pilot Eddie Blain (Ireland) refuses orders to ship out to West Germany with the American air force to instead zero in on his wife and her infidelities; whereas narrator Joe maintains a rocky relationship with the mother of his own wife, something he gets involved in so much so that flying back to England from his American-based clerical job to get involved sees him fired.
So each man is rather attuned to their wives, Mike's relationship seeing him admit to lending his hard-earned cash to his own wife's brother if she'd told him to; his ultimate goal to take his large earnings and escape to his beloved. Furthermore, each man's respective situation in each of their jobs sees them hit a proverbial wall bringing about unemployment or redundancy; each of the three men additionally appearing to have served in a respective war and two of them have experiences with near-death or great harm of some kind in that Joe's mother in law attempts suicide and Mike must come to have some serious work done on his hand.
The men are eventually thrust together by the seemingly indomitable Miles Ravenscourt (Harvey), a young man, whom might be richer than he actually is, but whom occupies a plush and far richer locale; a self indulgent man whose home is rife with portraits of himself and whose wife Eve (Leighton) must suffer his begging for more money despite both parties' knowledge of his trouble with gambling debts; a man so estranged from his father, that he hopes to outlive him so that Miles may never see any of his inheritance, such is is ill-minded way with money as the film will go on to document. As previously mentioned, the film is more about the allure of crime or the idea behind a criminal act that'll greatly benefit oneself arriving with a sense of enticement, than most others things. The duality in each of the four men may appear looser than desired, but Gilbert crafts rather-a taut and tight heist film about desperate people doing desperate things at desperate times.
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