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Danny Haley's bookie operation is shut down, so he and his pals need money; when Danny meets Arthur Winant, a sucker from out of town, he decoys him into a series of poker games where eventually Winant loses $5000 that isn't his...then hangs himself. But it seems Winant had a shadowy, protective elder brother who believes in personal revenge. And each of the card players in turn feels a faceless doom inexorably closing in. Dark streets and sexy torch-singer Fran lend ambience. Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The description "Film Noir" still seems to cause lots of confusion: some people seem to think that every black & white movie with some cynicism in it is a Noir movie. By extension, Dark City is often labeled as Noir. It's OK with me to use jargon, but let's only use it correctly, shall we
Although Dark City certainly has elements of the Noir genre, there is a very simple reason why this movie really don't qualify as such: indeed the cynical main character Dan Haley slowly but surely turns into a better man, gradually allowing his conscience to play a more important role in his life, and taking several correcting steps after a life of causing sadness and anger. In the end, there's even the promise of a bright future for him with torch singer Fran. All this is very un-Noir ! That doesn't make it all of a sudden a bad movie. On the contrary !
To me, Dark City actually has a very clever psychological plot. All along the way, we get bits of information about why Haley has become a cynical hoodlum. He has been a courageous soldier during the war, but the infidelity of his British wife led him to kill her new love interest. Charges against him were dropped, but it clearly left him quite cynical about interpersonal relationships. Still, he's not rotten to the core. We get first evidence of this, when he discovers that his poker game buddy Augie has been cheating in a game that left L.A. business man Arthur Winant penniless.
Another indication of his double feelings about the world around him can be found in his relationship with Fran:
Fran: Don't you ever need somebody Danny ? Danny: What for ? Fran: Just to need
Although he keeps on pushing lovesick Fran away when she's once more trying to get too close to him, he will remain -in his own particular way- loyal to her.
So, if one of the reviewers complaints about the lack of chemistry between Heston and Scott, he seems to have completely missed the point this movie is trying to make. Of course there are no sparks flying around here !!! Heston's character is still too much influenced by his troubled past, by the betrayal of his love by his British wife and a friend. He's still in the process of adapting, of regaining some hope. In the end of the movie, he's only beginning to think about romancing again.
Then, several small elements distributed cleverly along the storyline like Tom Thumb's crumbs will lead to big changes in Haley's life. His friend Soldier's remark that he's "Worse than the others" is one of these little seeds, that makes him reflect about his actions. Another one is dropped, when Swede tells him about the Irish boy he killed during a boxing contest. Swede brought all the money he could find to the mother of the deceased young man, but she spat him in the face. This element makes Haley review his reactions concerning Victoria. Victoria too has an important impact on his life, as he sees how she's taking care of Billy, protecting him against uncle Sidney, and how difficult she must have got it, after her husband came back from the war. (Unless he was boasting, he is supposed to have been involved in Special Operations, a kind of work that generally leaves no one without psychological changes. The man is a heavy drinker, and although he has a gorgeous wife and a young son, he's soon playing Casanova in Chicago, dating Fran). Fran too drops several little seeds in Haley's mind, and so does the Police Captain. Although he remains outwardly cynical, all these little drops soon find a way to his heart. The fact that he was upset when he discovered that Augie had been cheating during the poker game already made it clear he wasn't rotten to the core. There still was the possibility for him to change his life. The several meetings with people he has after the suicide of Arthur Winant all turn out to be guiding lights to the right path of life again. And in the end, the patience and extreme loyalty of Fran is rewarded.
So, although this film starts as a Film Noir, this clever movie is in fact about how all kind of positive little events can set in motion important positive changes in someone's life. It's about hope, about starting all over again, about how something positive still can come out of sad events, such as a suicide. Real Film Noir isn't about optimistic at all. The main characters are cynical and self serving, and don't go through changes. Or if they do, it's only to become even more cynical at the end. See for ex. Fred MacMurray's character in Pushover, or Lizabeth Scott herself in Too late for tears. That's Noir with a capital N.
I was extremely pleased by this movie. I'm still trying to find out who actually sung the songs Lizabeth Scott's singing in this movie. Although she took 2 ½ years of singing lessons in the 1950's, and even released an LP, she never reached a sufficient good level to leave an impact as a singer. But the female singer who sang the songs in Dark City surely did. It are haunting melodies such as "Letter from a lady in love" or "Old black magic", sung with a sultry voice. Globally: nice storyline, fine cast, a movie that's worth adding to your collection ! 9/10
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