"What's it all about?"
"Hey, Al, bright boy wants to know what it's all about."
"Why don't you tell him?"
"What do you think it's all about?"
"I don't know."
"What do you think?"
"I wouldn't say."
Hemingway's dialogue is less naturalistic than it is poetic, and when it shows up verbatim (very occasionally) in The Ernest Hemingway Collection, it usually sounds preposterous. For The Killers, however, Siodmak crafted a chiaroscuro world suited to such aggressive, monosyllabic exchanges. His movie is not Hollywood Hemingway at all, but a classic example of a more famous genre: film noir. (To Have and Have Not has shades of film noir as well, and Hawks followed it with a noir classic, The Big Sleep.)
"The Killers" is a Nick Adams story, but Nick, the classic Hemingway stand-in, runs off early in the film, and the lead is taken over by a hard-boiled insurance investigator played by Edmond O'Brien, doing his best Humphrey Bogart. It's as though one is watching the transition from Hemingway's sensibility—tortured, macho, Romantic—to the ethos of cool that was just then taking hold in America. And it's mostly a relief: Those Hemingway men, all self-dramatization and inner melodrama, were a bit much to take. But something is lost as well: the anguished idealism, the (comparatively) frank emotional engagement. Watching the affectless O'Brien return to his insurance office at the end of the movie, I almost began to miss the awkward enthusiasm of Gregory Peck, boyishly chasing hippopotami.