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An RAF squadron is brought down over occupied France. The flyers get to Paris in spite of the fact that the youngest, Baby, is injured. He must be hidden and his wounds cared for. The Gestapo has already issued orders for their arrest.
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 <email@example.com>
Two of the most beautiful actors in film history, Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake got together for the first time in this crime drama that also launched the former's career; a combined fact that in itself is enough to make this a must-see feature. Ladd is justly remembered as the star of Shane, the classic George Stevens' revision on the Western mythology, but his legacy remains overlooked beyond that great achievement. He could be a fine performer, against the average public opinion, and a film like This Gun for Hire proves his neglected status as one of Film Noir's prime antiheroes.
As witty as she's a long-haired blonde, Miss Lake has a sexiness and a childlike casualness about her that only underline her smartness. Her character is neither a typically passionate nor a bitchy femme fatale, and it's kind of a relief that we see the Ladd's character through her eyes ultimately. I can't remember another female role in the genre -- or any noiresque role for that matter -- of such a personal balance and empathy.
This is a Graham Greene movie that somehow looks more a Dashiell Hammett one*. Greene's concern with morality puts things in motion as it would do in The Third Man and Our Man in Havana, both films directed by Carol Reed. Lake apparently plays the angelic symbol of redemption to the fallen angel of her captor, a reminder of the peculiar Catholicism the novelist professed.
* Next to This Gun for Hire, Ladd and Lake did make a Hammett film: The Glass Key (1942).
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