54 user 45 critic

Force of Evil (1948)

An unethical lawyer, with an older brother he wants to help, becomes a partner with a client in the numbers racket.



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Complete credited cast:
Edna Tucker
Howland Chamberlain ...
Freddie Bauer (as Howland Chamberlin)
Ben Tucker
Bill Ficco
Stanley Prager ...
Barry Kelley ...
Det. Egan
Hobe Wheelock
Doris Lowry


Lawyer Joe Morse wants to consolidate all the small-time numbers racket operators into one big powerful operation. But his elder brother Leo is one of these small-time operators who wants to stay that way, preferring not to deal with the gangsters who dominate the big-time. Written by John Oswalt <jao@jao.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Crime | Drama | Film-Noir


TV-PG | See all certifications »




Release Date:

25 December 1948 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Tucker's People  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider. See more »


During a climactic montage set at an East Coast racetrack on the Fourth of July, people in the stock footage crowd scenes are dressed in winter garments nobody would wear in the middle of summer. See more »


Leo Morse: The money I made in this rotten business is no good for me, Joe. I don't want it back. And Tucker's money is no good either.
Joe Morse: The money has no moral opinions.
Leo Morse: I find I have, Joe. I find I have.
See more »


Featured in New York at the Movies (2002) See more »


String Quartet opus 131, no. 14: Ist Movement
Music by Ludwig van Beethoven
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User Reviews

Great mix of mobsters and sibling rivalry in overlooked gem...
14 March 1999 | by (Philadelphia, PA) – See all my reviews

Martin Scorsese has hailed this film as one of the forgotten masterpieces of the film-noir genre. He took it a step further by resurrecting the film from the vaults and teaching it at NYU in the late 60's. He said it was the first film he ever saw that related "to a world he knew and saw." Indeed, the film's realism and location shooting is great to see, especially Wall Street circa 1948. Those scrapers have stood for a long time. This is not traditional noir, however. It is an excellent study of a personal battle between two brothers. Joe (John Garfield) is a rich, corrupt mob lawyer, not unlike Duvall in the Godfather flicks. His older brother Leo (A great actor named Thomas Gomez) is a banker trying to live on the "up and up".

The relationship is a tragic one. Thomas Gomez must be one of the most underrated actors of his day. He steals every scene he's in with the quick-talking Garfield, who was so good in THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE. This may be familiar to fans of RAGING BULL, where both sets of brothers in two very different films love each other, but have a difficult time displaying affection.

Two fabulous scenes stand out and would be impossible if shot in color. The first occurs when Garfield stumbles upon a darkened office with his door slightly ajar. The light from his office cuts through the middle of the screen, allowing Garfield to snoop. Another is the shootout at the film's climax, where all of the three shooters are lying in the shadows, creating suspense based on what we cannot see. It is all done in a very impressionistic way, a superb use of lighting and shadow. This is black and white at its best. Pure and evil. A truly great film. I would stay focused on the scenes between Gomez and Garfield. This sad brotherhood plays incredibly against a brilliant backdrop of crime and double-crossing.

FORCE OF EVIL is another reminder of how good Hollywood films of the 1940's were. Without them, we probably would not have the classics of the past 25 years.

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