Characteristically Kubrick in both its mechanistic coldness and its vision of human endeavour undone by greed and deceit, this noir-ish heist movie is nevertheless far more satisfying than most of his later work, due both to a lack of bombastic pretensions and to the style fitting the subject matter. Sterling Hayden is his usual admirable self as the ex-con who gathers together a gallery of small-timers to rob a race track; for once it’s not the robbery itself that goes wrong, but the aftermath.
What is remarkable about the movie, besides the excellent performances of an archetypal noir cast and Lucien Ballard's steely photography, is the time structure, employing a complex series of flashbacks both to introduce and explain characters and to create a synchronous view of simultaneous events. Kubrick’s essentially heartless, beady-eyed observation of human foibles lacks the dimension of the genre’s classics, but the likes of Marie Windsor, Timothy Carey and Elisha Cook more than compensate.
Geoff Andrew, Time Out Film Guide