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An honest police captain named McQuigg becomes a tough rival to a powerful bootlegger named Scarsi, even though McQuigg's pinches never stick because Scarsi and his organization control the corrupt politicians and judges. When Scarsi can't scare McQuigg off, he gets him transferred to a quiet police precinct in the suburbs, but McQuigg continues their war of words via a pair of wisecracking newspaper reporters. Then McQuigg catches a huge break when Scarsi's younger brother gets picked up for a hit and run accident in his precinct, putting in motion a complex plan to bring down the mobster using the reporters, a nightclub singing gold digger, the upcoming elections and Scari's own organization. Written by
Tough cop Thomas Meighan (as James McQuigg) versus underworld kingpin Louis Wolheim (as Nick Scarsi). In a subplot, blonde gold-digger Marie Prevost (as Helen Hayes) pursues Mr. Wolheim's "bad boy" brother George Stone (as Joe Scarsi). This Howard Hughes piloted film was considered for "Best Production" at the first Academy Awards, as "the most outstanding motion picture considering all elements that contribute to a picture's greatness." Although it understandably lost to "Wings", it does posses elements of "greatness".
Mr. Meighan, one of the biggest and most beloved stars of the era, brings considerable presence to his role; with a script that offers him surprisingly few opportunities for characterization. Wolheim and director Lewis Milestone are always a fun to watch match. Ms. Prevost and the supporting cast do their best with the "love story" and gangland activities. And, the production values are high. If only more focus and characterization were on the personal stories and conflicts concerning McQuigg and Scarsi! Curiously hesitant to show much depth; still, "The Racket" exposes, while inadvertently glamorizing, the gangster lifestyle.
******* The Racket (6/30/28) Lewis Milestone ~ Thomas Meighan, Louis Wolheim, Marie Prevost
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