A depressing but truthful look at a lower-echelon member of the Los Angeles mob (Miller) who is rapidly becoming expendable. Miller is known as "the key man" because of the large ring of keys he carries as manager of various warehouse properties in which mob hijackers store their goods.
Space is running out, and Miller is in the process of negotiating a deal to take over a block of warehouse property to handle the backlog of booty. The deal is stalling, however, making his boss, Hillerman, edgy. Further endangering Miller is the fact that he seems to have too much heart to be a
criminal, something that is clearly indicated in scenes with his girl friend, Haynes, and his buddies such as tavern owner French and fight manager Frizzell. Hillerman tells Miller to take Hopkins, a constantly babbling yokel in a cowboy outfit, under his wing, explaining Hopkins is on the run,
but it soon becomes apparent that Hopkins is there to keep an eye on Miller. Evans works for Hillerman, and when he beats up prizefighter Gordon (who won't go down for the count) and then kills Gordon's manager, Frizzell, Miller beats Evans senseless, further angering his bosses. Miller and Haynes
go off for a weekend in the country where he also hopes to conclude the warehouse business, but it doesn't work out and he sends Haynes to Las Vegas, promising to meet her that evening after facing Hillerman. He finds Hillerman in a restaurant and demands that he call off Hopkins. Hillerman
assures Miller that he is not in any danger and that the mob has every confidence that Miller will still be able to pull off the warehouse block deal. Miller returns to his apartment; while he is shaving, Hopkins bursts in and shoots him. The wounded Miller still manages to overpower Hopkins and
choke him to death. He then wanders out, and we next see him the following morning sitting in front of French's tavern as French approaches to open up for the day. French greets Miller then, getting no reply, looks closer to see that Miller is dead. Overcome with emotion, he hugs Miller, and as he
does so, the dead man's key ring falls to the ground.
This is one of those films in which we know from the outset the hero is doomed, and we hope there's enough to hold our interest until his certain demise. This one does, but it's a close call. The film's biggest problem is a story weak in logic and motivation. We never really understand just what
is holding up Miller's warehouse deal, nor why his failure to complete it should result in the death penalty--sure, this is the mob here, but the punishment seems a little severe even for those goons. Nevertheless, the film is properly atmospheric and boasts a very competent cast, headed by
Miller--always good at playing the world-weary hero with a heart of gold--and Hillerman, who proves to be an effective villain, as he did in PAPER MOON.
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- Released: 1974
- Rating: PG
- Review: A depressing but truthful look at a lower-echelon member of the Los Angeles mob (Miller) who is rapidly becoming expendable. Miller is known as "the key man" because of the large ring of keys he carries as manager of various warehouse properties in which m… (more)