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William Hartnell is part of a smash & grab crew led by Raymond Lovell. When Hartnell smashes a jeweler's window, a protective gate drops on his wrists, breaking them, and the crew takes off without him before the police arrives. After serving time in prison, Hartnell wants to get even with Lovell and his crew, by framing him for the murder of his chauffeur, using Lovell's gun. He establishes an alibi for himself through dancer-for-hire Joyce Howard, but police inspector Robert Beatty thinks Howard is a bit too eager to support Hartnell's alibi and digs deeper. Lovell's gun however belongs to Herbert Lom, art dealer by day, Lovell's criminal boss by night. So rather than getting even with Lovell, Hartnell now has to deal with the police, as well as Lom.
Hartnell ('Brighton Rock', the first Doctor Who) plays his character as tightly wound as possible (or incredibly stiff, depending on your point of view), which works well for me. Every time you sorta start to feel sympathy for him, he does something mean again (despite caring for Howard, he still deceives and lies to her to save his own skin). Lom ('Night And The City', 'Hell Drivers') is great as a suave crook. They are the standouts in an otherwise decent but unremarkable cast. I wish Joyce Howard's character wasn't written as naively as it is, it doesn't work too well with the 'street wise' side of her character.
The movie starts out great with a quick set-up and some really nicely done shots, including extreme Dutch angles and shadow-rich scenes. I was hoping for a precursor to the awesome 'Brighton Rock' already, but after a while things start to lose steam. There are still plenty of shadows and decent shots, but the plot becomes unnecessarily muddy and even slow in places. It is however gritty, both in Hartnell's character as in the overall feel. Not a bad effort from director & writer John Harlow (who also directed/wrote a couple of Sexton Blake movies) but it doesn't live up to the great first 10-15 minutes. 6.5/10
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