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This obscure super-low budget sleeper starts like a million b-movies with a small setback and a minor overreaction. However, as noir emeritus Dan Duryea slowly navigates the ensuing fall of dominoes and swirls and eddies of fate and temptation, CHICAGO CALLING gradually, inexorably pulls itself up by its boot gathers to become nothing less than one of the most touching takes on morality and desperation I've ever seen. It's going to be hard to find (not on DVD and rarely on TCM) but this startling, heartbreaking character study is a must see for any noirist. It's that good.
A lot of the credit must go to Dan Duryea. He so convincingly played such a long line of abusive creep boyfriends and irredeemably scummy thugs, one would have been tempted to take a swing at him on the street. In this case, however, Duryea is cast as the protagonist and it is a revelation. Given the chance to emote, Duryea reveals heretofore hidden depth of emotion and angst as he struggles to find his integrity and hope as the world falls down all around him. His performance is subtle and carefully modulated so that we are forced to wait a long time for the powerful payoff, which is his ultimate emotional reveal and Duryea's best moment in forty five years on film. The young boy also deserves a lot of credit... his unlikely friendship with Duryea is believable and powerful precisely because the boy's reactions make it so. There is almost a BICYCLE THIEF quality to their relationship, and Duryea's transformation is beautifully motivated (and tested) by the boy. I defy you not to tear up at the boy's train yard scene at the end.
The Bunker Hill location photography by De Grasse is striking and evocative. The score is effective.
Look for this one, fans. Duryea's touching performance is one for the ages and the movie will handsomely reward your effort to find it.
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