Robert Rossen enjoyed a distinguished career in Hollywood as a writer and a director. He always showed he had an eye for the language his characters spoke and he also had an eye for detail, as he shows in this movie.
The main character is Johnny O'Clock, a man that is deemed guilty by the detective that is trying to solve a case. Inspector Koch is so determined that Johnny knows about the mystery, that he pursues him without realizing this man appears guilty, but only by association.
Johnny is a man that loves the good life. His association to the casino owner Marchettis, will be his downfall. Between these two men is Nelle, who is married to Marchettis, but doesn't want to let go of Johnny, with whom she's had an affair. To make matters worse, Johnny is in the middle of the mysterious murder of Harriet, the hatcheck girl he befriends at the casino.
The cinematography is excellent. There is a scene where Johnny offers a cigarette to Nancy, the sister of the murdered Harriet, and we see how the light shines in her face that heightens the emotion of the moment.
Dick Powell, as Johnny is properly dapper and vulnerable. He is a man that has seen it all, yet, he ends up falling for Nancy, in whom he sees a kind soul who loves him. Lee J. Cobb, an actor's actor, plays the Inspector Koch chewing his cigars and asking questions that Johnny doesn't care to answer.
The female roles are well played by Evelyn Keyes. This was an actress that had such a sophisticated look that is not hard to imagine why the director chose her to play Nancy. Equally excellent was Ellen Drew. She is Nelle, who can't let go of Johnny, at the expense of losing all she has by her marriage to Marchettis. Thomas Gomez is Marchettis, the casino owner. Mr. Gomez was properly oily and sly, as in most of the roles he played in films.
This movie was a discovery. Although a bit dated, one can see the impact it might have had in its day thanks to Mr. Rossen's brilliant direction and amazing cinematography.
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