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Cornered More at IMDbPro »

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55 out of 65 people found the following review useful:

A Noir Masterpiece

10/10
Author: Eric Chapman (caspar_h@yahoo.com) from Pittsburgh, PA
26 May 2001

If "The Maltese Falcon" represents the birth of what came to be known as Film Noir, and the war years were its childhood, then certainly this is its first bittersweet kiss. The writer, John Paxton, and the director Edward Dmytryk, seem charged up, electrified by the aftershocks of the just ended war. Characters are sharply drawn and unusually articulate, possessing a clarity of thought and emotional precision that's rare. "I'd rather have it quick than carefully" Dick Powell's Canadian flyer turned vengeful sleuth says at one point.

The Swiss watch plot is intricate and exhausting. When it's finally over you have the elated feeling that you've just completed a marathon and come in first. No one can be trusted. Everyone has a card up their sleeve and a gun in the top drawer. Just in case. Shadows, prying eyes, lonely dimly lit streets, whispered mistruths partially overheard but only half understood; that's what this film is about. Some have done it as well but none have done it better. The sense of claustrophobia, of walls closing in is overwhelming, particularly during one gripping scene set in an underground railway. Dmytryk whips you from one locale to the next, globe-hopping from London to Paris to Argentina, until you're dizzy. It's almost as if a world ravaged by war has become Powell's own personal trash heap, at the bottom of which may or may not be what he is looking for.

Powell is terse, tight-lipped and intractable, a quintessential Noir "hero", as the man desperately searching for the enigmatic Nazi collaborator responsible for his French wife's death. He shrugs off an onslaught of manipulative rhetoric and deception, trusting no one, cold-blooded revenge his only goal. But the real acting honors have to go to Walter Slezak, who is every bit as venal, calculating and cosmopolitan (not to mention plump) as Sidney Greenstreet was in "Falcon". A terrific performance. I also liked the way Luther Adler, on screen for less than five minutes but in a pivotal role, gets so much mileage out of a single raised eyebrow.

Post war disillusionment at its most raw and immediate. Virtually flawless.

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34 out of 36 people found the following review useful:

Dick Powell in anti-Fascist intrigue in Buenos Aires

8/10
Author: bmacv from Western New York
4 February 2002

Buenos Aires enjoyed a vogue (so far as the movies were concerned) in the mid-1940s, providing the locale for Notorious, Gilda and Edward Dmytryk's Cornered. In all three, it serves as a sort of terminal moraine for Nazi refugees from the shambles of the Axis powers.

Dick Powell continues his transformation from lip-glossed song-and-dance man for Busby Berkeley into a five-o'clock-shadowed tough guy, a makeover he had begun the previous year as Philip Marlowe in Murder, My Sweet (also by Dmytryk). Here he's a Canadian Royal Air Force veteran who ends up in Argentina, via France and Switzerland, on a mission to avenge the murder of his war-bride wife. He enters a whirl of black-tie affairs in cavernous mansions (those Nazis knew how to party) and a nest of duplicity surrounding the mysterious, and presumably dead, war-criminal-in-chief, known as Jarnac -- the object of his deadly hunt. An at-first bewildering cast of sinister operatives gradually sorts itself out into villains (Walter Slezak the most memorable of them) and members of an anti-Fascist group; Powell, the while, skulks along the moonlit streets of the city in pursuit of Jarnac's "widow."

Dmytryk displays his pioneering flair for noir devices, keeping the atmospherics and tension high. He's let down a bit by the murkiness of the plotting, where the political theme emerges and disappears, leaving abstract stretches of suspense that might as easily have taken place in Boston or Bombay. And it's hard to buy into the convention that, in rooms blazing with gunfire, the red-blooded American will always prevail by means of a manly sock to the jaw. Somewhat dated by its wartime politics and its roots in the international-intrigue genre, Cornered remains a solid piece of work by both Dmytryk and Powell.

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27 out of 30 people found the following review useful:

Intrigue in Peronist Argentina

8/10
Author: bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York
5 September 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Another commentator remarked that there were a few films set in Buenos Aires, Argentina about former Nazis operating there. Well it was the Argentina at that time of Juan and Evita Peron.

Peron's Argentina never declared war on Germany until 1945 when the issue was no longer in doubt. He had a delicate diplomatic problem on his hands. He wanted to make it hospitable for his former friends, but he also didn't want Argentina isolated from the rest of the hemisphere.

So Peron's problems really became the basis for films like Cornered where Dick Powell as a former Canadian Air Force flier goes there seeking the French Vichy collaborator who was responsible for many deaths in his town including Powell's wife. Powell ain't about diplomacy and could care less about the diplomatic niceties. He's there almost in a Kirk Douglas like rage to find his wife's killer.

The producer/director team of Adrian Scott and Edward Dmytryk who had previously filmed Powell's noir debut in Murder My Sweet also guided Powell and a good cast through Cornered. One element retained from Murder My Sweet is the fact that through most of the film Powell is encountering some shady characters who he's not sure about at all in relation to his deadly quest.

Walter Slezak has a role of an information peddler which he does very well by. It's almost a reprise of what George Coulouris did in Watch on the Rhine and we all know what happened to Coulouris. Slezak is always good.

Luther Adler plays with appropriate menace the object of Powell's quest and when they do meet what happens to Adler will chill you to the marrow of your bones.

Cornered is a great piece of film making, but not one for the squeamish.

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27 out of 32 people found the following review useful:

Pardon Me, But is That a Nazi in your Burrito?

7/10
Author: dougdoepke from Claremont, USA
9 November 2008

Just count the number of daylight scenes in this unusually dense and dark slice of international intrigue. No doubt about it, noir has come to South America. And by golly, revenge-obsessed Laurence Gerard (Dick Powell) is going to track down his wife's killer, a Nazi collaborator, even if he has to turn Argentina upside down. And what's more, he's about as humorlessly driven as any grim character from that grim decade.

As good as Powell is, it's Walter Slezak as the slippery operative Melchior Incza who steals the show. I've seen the movie several times and I still can't figure out what side he's on. But never mind, he's all either oily politeness or hulking menace, to the point that for once I enjoyed watching a bloody beating. In fact, the 90 minutes is full of sinister foreign types, all polished gentlemen sporting high-class suits and slinky ladies modeling 40's high fashion. Nonetheless, you may need a scorecard to keep track of who's winning.

There are a number of nice touches, but maybe the most inventive is the subway scene. Gerard is trying to get important information from the untrustworthy Mme. Jarnac. Okay, she seems ready to cooperate and he's warily hanging on every word. But before she can complete a sentence, a noisy train rumbles by. They wait. She tries again. Same thing. Could it be that the Nazis are running the Buenos Aires subway? Of course, by this time the frustration has spread to the audience who may never ride a subway again.

The movie's message comes at the end and is reflective of the time (1945). Gerard may be pursuing justice, but the allies who help him are chasing Nazism itself. Following war's end, the survivors have escaped to Latin America and must be apprehended before the Third Reich festers all over again. (In fact, the West was unsure of Hitler's actual demise until 1956 when the Soviets finally released conclusive proof that he hadn't escaped his bunker.)

The identity of these pursuers is never disclosed, probably a touchy topic given the politics of writers Wexler and Paxton, subsequent victims of the Hollywood blacklist. In fact, the whole production crew reads like a Who's Who of the list, including producer Scott and director Dmytryk, two members of the high-profile Ten. Seems odd, finding Republican- conservative Powell in this leftish mix-- but then it's true that the war had enlisted Americans of all political stripes.

Politics aside, it's a crackling good yarn, even if a bit heavy-going at times. And for fans of noir, the lighting comes across as a textbook of shadow and menace. So much so, I doubt that the electricity bill for the entire production exceeded 10 bucks. Sure, the details seem dated but the sinister characters, passionate convictions, and convoluted schemes still entertain.

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14 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

An early noir, prototypical in many ways and strong, if confusing, overall

7/10
Author: secondtake from United States
28 May 2011

Cornered (1945)

"You can't be serious," the cheerful man said to Dick Powell, playing an ex-soldier in post-war Argentina. "I'm always serious," Powell replies. And he is. This defines the actor, and the character, and the doggedness of this character's pursuit of some mystery in the movie. It's impressive and wearing--a little humor might make him more human, yes, and it would also make the move more watchable. The cheerful man is a mystery, too, played with usual irony and crossed agendas by Walter Slezak (seen in a similar role in "Born to Kill").

Director Edward Dmytryk is as usual just short of superb. I don't think he has a bad film, but he often worked with compromised material (the story here is an example) or he worked too quickly (my guess) to pull together something extraordinary. But putting it this way is meant to say this movie has lots of aspects that are great.

One strength is the section of shots of what looks like genuine war torn France made months after the end of fighting. Another highlight is the film noir style throughout--the lighting, the clipped dialog, the lone man against the world, the brooding depression. Powell is his own kind of attraction. As offputting as his anger can get after awhile, it's exactly what makes him good, bullheaded and bulldozing his way through a complex network of enemies (who would really just kill him in short order if this was a realistic film, which no noir is).

The plot is unusually hard to follow (though other noirs come close, like "The Big Heat"). And the antagonists are largely only talked about--Powell is searching for someone, and that person and his collaborators are either unseen or so duplicitous you don't know where he stands, and so the ominousness gets vague, but also beautifully diffuse and omnipresent. It is this oppressiveness that is part of the success here, even as you get lost with the details of the plot. There are some nice night shots (one briefly in the park is ominous) and many facial close ups. There is a terrific conversation on a subway platform with the noise of the cars drowning out the talk now and then, great audio effect. And so the filming is worth the ride alone at times. The music is intense and dramatic, the bit actors really powerful even if they sometimes do foolish things (the valet getting shot, or half of the things Powell does).

In the film noir "cycle" this is early--the core films come after WWII, so this, along with "Double Indemnity," is cutting edge in that sense. It's also definitive in its mood. It's not a crime film, not a gangster story (which is where the hard film style has its American roots). It's a plot about how a person tries to rearrange his life after having it messed up, internally and externally, by the war. Powell is a perfect early noir leading male (the other famous one in the 1940s is Bogart). So this is a critically important film, maybe more important than truly enjoyable, but if you like noir it'll be terrific enough to hold you. If you aren't predisposed to like this kind of story, you'll find it meandering and dull and confusing. Me? I'm predisposed to like it, and I did, and I'll even watch it again, probably figuring it out a little more and enjoying it better.

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14 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

Dick Powell stops at nothing to corner the rat that killed his wife...

Author: Roger Burke from Brisbane, Australia
15 February 2007

Dick Powell was one of those classic Hollywood actors who was so laid back, so cool, so quick with the one-liner that he made most other actors seem positively dull. Even in the tightest of corners, he could always manage a suitable quip – and in this outing (as Laurence Gerard), he has his fair share...

He's ably supported by Walter Slezak (as Melcior Incza – what a name!) who once again plays a double-dealing con artist always looking for the main chance – in this case, trying to make a few more dishonest bucks helping – or is he hindering? -- Gerard track down the dirty traitor Marcel Jarnac (a short but fine performance from Luther Adler) who is responsible for Gerard's wife's death in France towards the end of World War II.

So, the quest in on. Along the way, Gerard travels from London, to France, to Switzerland and finally to Argentina where he finally begins his search in earnest. From that point until the end, the twists and turns in the plot remind me of the confusion that permeated The Big Sleep (1946). Cornered, however, does arrive at a satisfactory conclusion, unlike the Bogart classic which still puzzles viewers today (I've read that even Bogart remained unclear about the plot of The Big Sleep also).

However, back to this one...

Overall, I liked this film for its great use of darkness, shadows, excellent mise-en-scene, as befitting film-noir, and the sharp dialog; I thought, however, the pacing of the story was a bit slow at times and that some of the cuts were often very jerky, thus resulting in uneven narrative transitions. And the really big omission is the absence of an effective femme fatale. The rest of the production was okay and, for 1945, was equal to other B-movies of the genre.

Dick Powell went on to do more film noir (Johnny O'Clock, Pitfall, Rogues' Regiment and others) until 1954 when he opted for the emerging TV juggernaut. So, if you've missed this one up till now, it's worth the 102 minutes out of your life just to listen to Dick Powell and watch him grimace while he cracks sardonic jokes...

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18 out of 25 people found the following review useful:

My brief review of the film

Author: sol- from Perth, Australia
7 July 2005

A relatively intriguing bit of film noir, done in a smart, even if quite familiar, fashion - the way in which lightness and darkness are used, and some good camera angles, definitely enhance the experience. It is a bit on the dreary side though, and the plot is at times difficult to follow. The protagonist's motivations are never fully developed either, because inasmuch as he must have loved his wife, would he really go to all the trouble that he does in the film? Still, it is quite interesting stuff, even when it drags, and Jack La Rue has a great little menacing role, although sadly insufficient time on screen.

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16 out of 22 people found the following review useful:

A talky disappointment.

5/10
Author: planktonrules from Bradenton, Florida
21 March 2010

In 1944, Dick Powell made MURDER MY SWEET. It was perhaps his greatest performance and a welcome change from his pretty-boy crooner image earlier in his career. Playing Phillip Marlow, he was tough, sarcastic and mesmerizing. So, not surprisingly, when I learned that a year later he made another gritty noir-like film (CORNERED), I had to see it. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a very talky disappointment.

Powell plays a Canadian pilot was had been shot down in Occupied France during the war. There, he met a woman and married . Ultimately, however, he was caught and imprisoned by the Germans and she was killed by some French informer. When the film begins, the war is over and Powell is determined to find the informer and make him pay with his life.

The trail, however, is quite cold in France. But, on a lark, he learns that the man MIGHT be in Argentina and simply blunders into a pack of ex-Nazis and Nazi sympathize s like a drunk goat in an antique shop! Again and again, Powell's character comes off as just plain stupid--showing no grace or style--just punching and blindly walking into one dangerous mess after another. And, as a Hollywood film, he's able to miraculously avoid death again and again! In addition to Powell's very poorly written character, the film fails ultimately and is completely mediocre due to its very, very talky script. While there is some action, there isn't nearly enough and most of the time the film just consists of Powell talking to people and the people, naturally, lying. The script simply didn't rise to the occasion and this dark film is flat.

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15 out of 21 people found the following review useful:

classic entertainment

7/10
Author: greg jelinek (gergtj) from tucson, arizona
2 January 2002

I really enjoyed this film, but i thought that it could've been edited tighter. The run time was a little too long, and a tighter edit would've helped the film greatly. It also would've been nice to have a bigger female star for the main female character. Hedy Lamarr would've been my first choice. But overall, i was very impressed with the film and thought that Dick Powell's performance was strong. He showed a greater range of emotions than i've seen in other Powell films.

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8 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

"Men who pack suitcases make me nervous"

7/10
Author: ackstasis from Australia
11 January 2009

If it was post-war disillusionment that fuelled the booming film noir movement of the 1940s, then 'Cornered (1945)' might just be the most bitter, disillusioned noir of them all. Though I can't claim to be Edward Dmytryk's greatest fan, I enjoyed 'Murder, my Sweet (1944)' because of its evocative atmosphere and Dick Powell's cocky, swaggering Philip Marlowe. This film gets the atmosphere angle right, but is so utterly devoid of humour that there's little entertainment to be found through watching it. Powell, in his second and final film for the director, seems to be taking the role so seriously that he's almost bored with the material. His exceedingly grim performance has shades of the sleepy-eyed austerity that Robert Mitchum did so well – unfortunately, only Mitchum could ever pull it off correctly. Nevertheless, the shadowy photography of Harry J. Wild {who has many noirs to his credit, including 'The Woman on the Beach (1947),' 'They Won't Believe Me (1947)' and 'Macao (1952)} is predictably gorgeous and enigmatic, re-enforcing the murky themes at the film's heart.

When Canadian pilot Laurence Gerard (Powell) is released from captivity at the end of WWII, he is understandably grief-stricken to learn that his wife has been executed by Nazi conspirators. Though the man responsible, Marcel Jarnac, is presumed dead by authorities, Gerard suspects deception, and travels down to Beunos Aires to uncover the truth. What Gerard encounters is a party of dubious Frenchmen, whose continued loyalty to greed and corruption are keeping the Nazi spirit well-and-truly alive. Our hero's approach is not the most subtle of tactics – he never bothers to hide his true intentions, and so deliberately places his own life in constant jeopardy, rushing determinedly into danger without ever considering the possibility that he's walking straight into a trap. Is Jarnac's beautiful wife (Micheline Cheirel) really as innocent as she claims to be? Is the city's leading "tour guide" (Walter Slezak, in another terrific role) an impartial operator who can be trusted with secret information? Is the German collaborator Jarnac right before Gerard's very nose?

I've always found Dmytryk to be a very workman-like filmmaker, though there's little doubt that his 1940s noirs constitute the creative peak of his career. Clever stylistic touches, like the climactic bashing that slides out of focus in an adrenalin-charged delirium, complement the narrative nicely, and Wild's cinematography can do nothing but enhance the film's merits. However, the story itself dwells too long in gloomy territory, such that there's little of the usual entertainment or invigoration to be derived even from the richly-crafted atmosphere. Only in the blood-soaked climax is Dmytryk able to build up some degree of momentum, and Luther Adler's enigmatic cameo role is certainly memorable; he has a strong, deep voice that occasionally suggests that it is Satan himself speaking diabolically from the shadows. 'Cornered' is a worthwhile film noir, with solid craftsmanship throughout, but the unrepentantly dark tone makes for somewhat empty, unsatisfying viewing. Just like the story it depicts, I suppose. Once the adrenaline of war has worn off, there's nothing left but sadness, regret… and shadows where our loved ones once stood.

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