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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 <email@example.com>
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[last lines - voice over]
I found my brother's body at the bottom there, where they had thrown it away on the rocks... by the river... like an old dirty rag nobody wants. He was dead - and I felt I had killed him. I turned back to give myself up to Hall; because if a man's life can be lived so long and come out this way - like rubbish - then something was horrible and had to be ended one way or another... and I decided to help.
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The only way to successfully defeat evil is to expose it
****SPOILERS**** John Garfield as big time mob lawyer Joe Morse at his best in a Cain and Able like story about the numbers racket in New York City. Where his brother Leo, Thomas Gomez, has a small neighborhood numbers bank that gets wiped out on July 4th when the number 776 which was heavily bet comes out not by chance but by design. In a fix engineered by Joe's mobster client Ben Tucker, Roy Roberts, in an attempt to corner and take over the numbers business in the city.
Joe being helpless to get Leo out of the numbers business before 776 hit because of a combination of Leo's honesty to pay off those who played the number at his establishment. Joe's affiliation with Tucker made it impossible for him to tell Leo the real reason for him to close up on July 4th without reviling Tucker's criminal activities. On the evening of July 4th all hell breaks loose with all the small numbers banks all over the city going bust by not being able to pay off those thousands who played number 776.
Joe trying to get Leo back on his feet by getting him a job with the Tucker mob sees that Leo would rather be broke then be involved with organized crime. Leo cares more about the people who worked for him, who ended up broke and in jail, then himself making a lot more then he did when he was a small time numbers banker. With Leo wanting out of the business before he corrupts himself by working for the mob he's kidnapped by the Ficco gang, Tucker's muscle men. Leo's accountant Freddie Bauer, Howard Chamberlain, is later murdered because not only didn't want out like Leo but could identify those who kidnapped Leo as well.
Joe drunk and depressed, over what is happening to Leo, at a local nightclub with Leo's secretary Doris Lowry, Beatrice Pearson, sees the news of Leo's kidnapping and Bauer's murder in the newspaper and rushes to Tucker's office. Finding Tucker there with his gangster partner Bill Ficco, Paul Fix, Joe tries to get his brother Leo released by the Ficco mob. It's then that Joe finds out that Leo died of a heart attack and was dumped on the rocks under the Washington Bridge.
In an explosive and emotional moment Joe secretly lifts up a phone in Tucker's cabinet drawer, that Joe knows is being tapped by the DA's office. Joe knowing that it's all over between him and Tucker gets, by inciting, both him and Ficco to spill the beans about their criminal operations, as well as Ficco's kidnapping and later death of Leo. When Tucker and Ficco are shown the activated phone by Joe the lights go out and there's a shootout where both Tucker and Ficco end up getting shot and killed by Joe. Taking off with Doris to the Washington Bridge Joe find Leo's body lying on the rocks.
Sad and emotional ending with Joe and Doris finding Leo's body and later, as the movie ends, Joe going to the DA to tell all he knows about the life of crime that he led defending hoods like Tucker that cost Leo's life. Both powerful and touching movie about good and evil that was so ahead of it's time in how the force of evil destroys the lives of those who embrace it. That even now almost sixty years after it's release "Force of Evil" still packs the same wallop as it did back in 1948.
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