Total Film - 11/01/2011 4 stars out of 5 -- "[A] real-time boxing noir that makes every sweat-flecked second count."
Description by OLDIES.com:
Boxing Wednesdays. Wrestling on Fridays. Stoker Thompson is on Paradise City's Wednesday card, fighting after the main event. He's been 20 years in the game and is sure he's just one punch away from big paydays. But there's one thing Stoker doesn't yet know: his manager wants him to take a dive tonight.
The Set-Up comes out swinging as one of the great films about the so-called sweet science. Robert Wise directs, shaping real-time events into an acclaimed and unsparing film-noir look at the stale-air venues, bloodthirsty fans, ring savagery and delusional dreams of boxing's palooka world. Robert Ryan embraces perhaps his finest screen hour as Stoker. Audrey Totter, like Ryan an icon of the noir genre, plays Stoker's steadfast wife. In a sport that would take their last flicker of dignity, the Thompsons are reclaiming theirs.
Considered one of the most realistic and gripping boxing films ever made, THE SET-UP is an emotionally charged story of the dirty dealings of boxing and an aging boxer who ignores them and fights to win. Filmed in real time, the film essentially chronicles 72 uninterrupted minutes of one night. Robert Ryan is Bill "Stoker" Thompson, who, against his wife's (Audrey Totter) pleading, prepares himself for an unimportant fight but one he believes will put him on top again if he wins. Stoker's crooked manager, Tiny (George Tobias), has already taken money from a hood, Danny (Edwin Max), in return for Stoker's throwing the fight. Danny's boss, Little Boy (Alan Baxter), is a local gangster who's invested heavily in Stoker's opponent (Hal Fieberling). Even Stoker's trainer (Percy Helton) is involved in a cut of the money. All of this occurs without the boxer's knowledge, as they all assume he has no chance to win anyway. A grueling fight ensues, enhanced by magnificent cinematography by Milton Krasner and director Robert Wise's expert pacing. THE SET-UP, based on a poem by Joseph Monsure March, is poignant, action-packed, and totally absorbing, a unique viewing experience.
The dirty dealings of the boxing milieu are exposed in this film, which follows a night in the life of a has-been pugilist. The athlete in question is about to fight in a bout in which mobsters have ordered him to take a dive. But when the gutsy boxer decides to knock out his opponent instead, he must face the dire consequences...