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Kansas City Confidential is a 1952 film noir crime film directed by Phil Karlson and starring John Payne. Karlson and Payne teamed up a year later for another noir, titled 99 River Street, followed by a 1955 color film, Hell's Island.


Four robbers hold up an armored truck getting away with over a million dollars in cash. Joe Rolfe (John Payne), a down-on-his-luck flower delivery truck driver is accused of being involved and is roughly interrogated by local police. Released due to lack of evidence, Joe, following the clues to a Mexican resort, decides to look for the men who set him up both to clear his name and to exact revenge. What he doesn’t know is that the heist involves a retired policeman who is also intent on revenge.



In Kansas City Confidential, perennial movie bad guys Lee Van Cleef, Neville Brand and Jack Elam play thugs and criminal associates. Although the title would suggest that the story takes place in Kansas Citymarker, most of the film actually takes place at a fictitious fishing resort in Mexicomarker. Kansas City Confidential was director Karlson's second crime film; he also directed Scandal Sheet, also released in 1952, which proved to be a modest commercial success. This movie's plot was the inspiration for Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs.


The producers used the following tagline to market the film:
Exploding like a gun in your face!

Critical reception

The staff at Variety magazine said, "With exception of the denouement, director Phil Karlson reins his cast in a grim atmosphere that develops momentum through succeeding reels. Payne delivers an impressive portrayal of an unrelenting outsider who cracks the ring.

More recently, when the film was releaced in DVD format, film critic Gary Johnson said, "This is prime Karlson. It's brutal, hard-edged, and unflinching, but it's also livened by a distinct streak of optimism. Whereas some directors of film noir preferred the deterministic pessimism of Out of the Past and Raw Deal, Karlson tempered the surface cynicism of his films with an underlying sense of hope."

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