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Joseph H. Lewis
Dame May Whitty,
"In the cracking of many big criminal cases such as those of John Dillinger, Lucky Luciano and Al Capone, among others-the newspaper headlines tell only of the glamorous and sensational figures involved. But behind the headlines are the untold stories of ordinary men and women acting with extraordinary courage. This picture concerns one of those men"
The Undercover Man is produced by the director of All The King's Men and The Hustler (Robert Rossen), directed by Joseph H. Lewis (The Big Combo), photographed by the guy who did Bonnie And Clyde and From Here To Eternity (Burnett Guffey) and stars Glenn Ford (Gilda and The Big Heat). I don't think it's over exaggerating things to say that this particular film has pretty high credentials. But is it any good? Well yes and no is the cop out answer really. A lot will depend on your tolerance for a crime (Noir) story without the edginess and shades of dark colours so befitting the genres Undercover Man purports to belong to.
Joseph Lewis' film is a good old honest tale of genuine people, each threatened or blighted by crime, collectively coming together to thwart the mob types that ran amok back in the day. Led by the seemingly unflinching Treasury Department operative Frank Warren (Ford), we are led thru a talky movie that ultimately is relying on its "who's cooking the books, and can we prove it" plot to keep all interested. Yes a couple of potent crime scenes are in the piece to ensure we know that there are villains in our midst, but really this is a sedate sort of crime picture and prospective new viewers should be prepared for that.
Technically it's fine, all involved are delivering a high standard that their respective back catalogue's suggests that they should. Other cast members range from the underused (James Whitmore) to the under written (Nina Foch), with the latter a hindrance to the film because a strong female presence would have put meat on the bones of Warren's state of mind skeleton. Shyster lawyer duties falls to Barry Kelley (The Asphalt Jungle), who does rather well to be the central focus of the badness within the picture, but he is not the main man, he is not the villain at the stories heart-and with that you can't help hankering for a real touch of villainy to really darken proceedings.
Recommended for sure, but only as an interesting crime story featuring pretty interesting characters. For it's neither dark or grim enough to be considered anything else. 7/10
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