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Hit man Philip Raven, who's kind to children and cats, kills a blackmailer and is paid off by traitor Willard Gates in "hot" money. Meanwhile, pert entertainer Ellen Graham, girlfriend of police Lieut. Crane (who's after Raven) is enlisted by a Senate committee to help investigate Gates. Raven, seeking Gates for revenge, meets Ellen on the train; their relationship gradually evolves from that of killer and potential victim to an uneasy alliance against a common enemy. Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Breath-taking Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake film noir
Philip Raven (Alan Ladd) is a gun for hire. He lives alone in a small room and gives milk to a lonely cat every morning. But he doesn't seem to appreciate the company of humans. He never smiles and he won't trust anybody. He is asked by Willard Gates to kill a man and steal documents from him. After Gates paid Raven with hot money, Raven decided to find Gates to settle a score with him. In the meanwhile, a cabaret performer Ellen Graham (Veronica Lake), the girl friend of a Police lieutenant, is secretly charged by a senator to infiltrate a company Nitro that is suspected to sell army secrets to the Japanese. For this, she goes to an audition to be hired by Willard Gates, owner of a cabaret, but also an employee of Nitro. In the train on her way to Los Angeles, Ellen Graham meets Philip Raven, both unaware that they are involved in the same case. When they arrive in Los Angeles, the Police is after him and he has to kidnap Ellen to get away from it. Realizing they have the same enemy Ellen convinces Raven to forget his own interest and start to fight the people of Nitro in the interest of the country.
This is the first Alan Ladd Veronica Lake movie but it is also probably the best. The plot, the acting, the dialogue and the direction are so great that these make This gun for hire' a classic film noir. At the beginning, the credits mention: introducing Alan Ladd. For his first leading role, the least we can say is that Ladd gives a great performance. It is obvious that his character inspired the character of Jeff in Le samourai' by Jean-Pierre Melville with Alain Delon. Both characters have the same attitude and the same clothes. They live alone a small room. They never get involve in any relationship and both are very professional. They are only kind to animals and children (in `Le samourai', Delon had a bird in his room). Also, the sequence on the pedestrian bridge of the railroad has clearly its equivalent in Le Samourai'. I was really impressed by the first sequence, when Ladd execute his contract and also by the sequence where Ladd and Lake are running across the city to escape from the Police (which is much of the movie). How breath-taking! This is truly great cinema, quiet a good surprise for a director (Frank Tuttle) who is not that well known. I've seen The Blue Dahlia', `the Glass key' and `this gun for hire' these last three days (film noir retrospective in Oak Street Cinema, Minneapolis) in this order (reverse of the chronological one) but I must say that the quality increase in this order. This gun for hire' is much darker and less funny than the movie they made together after that but it is a better film noir. Definitely a masterpiece. High recommended 9/10.
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