The Set-Up (1949) - Rotten Tomatoes

The Set-Up1949

The Set-Up (1949)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

The Set-Up Photos

Movie Info

As shown by the clock face that opens and closes the film, The Set-Up takes place within a compact 72 minutes, with the action played out in "real time." Robert Ryan plays Bill "Stoker" Thompson, a washed-up boxer who refuses to give up his career despite the pleas of his wife Julie (Audrey Totter). There's little chance that he's going to win this evening's bout; still, Stoker's manager Tiny (George Tobias) has secretly made a deal with a crooked gambler (Alan Baxter). Stoker is to take a dive, a fact withheld from him until the fight is well under way. His last vestige of pride is aroused in the ring, but the story doesn't end there. The fight sequence is one of the most brutal ever filmed, with close ups of Ryan's pummeled face intercut with shots of screaming spectators in the throes of bloodlust. Adapted by Art Cohn from a narrative poem by Joseph Moncure March, The Set-Up is arguably Robert Ryan's finest starring film.

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Robert Ryan
as Bill "Stoker" Thompson
Alan Baxter
as Little Boy
Audrey Totter
as Julie Thompson
Hal Baylor
as Tiger Nelson
James Edwards
as Luther Hawkins
David Clarke
as Gunboat Johnson
Edwin Max
as Danny
Abe Dinovitch
as Ring Caller
Jack Chase
as Hawkins' Second
Gene Delmont
as Handler
Jack Raymond
as Husband
Walter Ridge
as Manager
Paul Dubov
as Gambler
Jack Stoney
as Nelson's Second
Archie Leonard
as Blind Man
Bernard Gorcey
as Tobacco Man
Charles Wagenheim
as Hamburger Man
W.J. O'Brien
as Pitchman
Frank Mills
as Photographer
Bobby Henshaw
as Announcer
Kid Chissel
as Handler
Ben Moselle
as Referee
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News & Interviews for The Set-Up

Critic Reviews for The Set-Up

All Critics (12) | Top Critics (1)

Its boilerplate fatalism undone by overbearing moralizing and the fact that Ryan's boxer is too one-dimensionally good to register as tragic.

May 1, 2006

The fight itself is as brutal a bit of screen fare as this writer has ever seen. It's the excuse for the whole picture. You can almost forget the flimsy plot by the time you sit through it -- provided you go in for stark realism.

December 15, 2021 | Full Review…

By the time the last savage punch is delivered, it's well established that prizefighting, as depicted here, is an extremely sordid business.

August 20, 2021 | Rating: 1/3 | Full Review…

Filmmaker Wise, working from Art Cohn's screenplay, delivers a real-time drama that boasts plenty of appealing, attention-grabbing attributes...

January 6, 2021 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…

This boxing and film noir drama, directed by Robert Wise for the RKO, has a few factors that I find interesting, but I don't think it's that great with its plot about the redemption of an unsuccessful boxer. [Full review in Spanish]

July 20, 2020 | Rating: 6/10 | Full Review…

Never before or since has a boxing film so thoroughly depicted the sport's fans as a mob of petty and sadistic louts who want their pound of flesh and nothing less.

October 5, 2019 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Set-Up


Playing in real time, The Set-Up is the story of a washed up prizefighter looking for one last shot at glory. According to IMDb, the screenplay was actually based on a poem about a black boxer named Pansy Jones. The author, Joseph March, was reportedly unhappy about his character being changed to Stoker Thompson, a white man. Unlike most films about boxing, the fight scenes here seem raw and unchoreographed. Robert Ryan (who, by the way, was a boxer at Dartmouth) is completely believable in his portrayal and director Robert Wise manages to make the dark tension of the piece tangible. You can almost feel the punches and smell the sweat.

Randy Tippy
Randy Tippy

Super Reviewer

Tough tight little noir. Lean in the best sense, not one shot is wasted.

jay nixon
jay nixon

Super Reviewer

a terrific stripped down boxing picture made in real time. robert ryan plays a fighter facing the end of his career. incredible fight scenes and beautifully rendered characters inhabiting their own little world. just great

Stella Dallas
Stella Dallas

Super Reviewer

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