A private eye escapes his past to run a gas station in a small town, but his past catches up with him. Now he must return to the big city world of danger, corruption, double crosses and duplicitous dames.
Johnny Farrell is a gambling cheat who turns straight to work for an unsettling casino owner Ballin Mundson. But things take a turn for Johnny as his alluring ex-lover appears as Mundson's wife, and Mundson's machinations begin to unravel.
Dave Bannion is an upright cop on the trail of a vicious gang he suspects holds power over the police force. Bannion is tipped off after a colleague's suicide and his fellow officers' suspicious silence lead him to believe that they are on the gangsters' payroll. When a bomb meant for him kills his wife instead, Bannion becomes a furious force of vengeance and justice, aided along the way by the gangster's spurned girlfriend Debbie. As Bannion and Debbie fall further and further into the Gangland's insidious and brutal trap, they must use any means necessary (including murder) to get to the truth. Written by
It's doubtful that even Dirty Harry in his most menacing moments could match the smouldering rage that Glenn Ford brings to the screen in this excellent 1953 Fritz Lang flick. From a modern POV there is nothing unfamiliar here, except maybe the dated hardboiled lingo. The maverick cop, the revenge theme, the underworld characters and heroines. It's just that whereas a modern director would make this into a predictable two hour yawn-fest with slow-motion car accidents and ten minute shootouts with shoulder-launched missiles, Lang's movie clocks in at under 90 minutes, and there isn't an ounce of fat on it. It's lean, fast-moving and engrossing. Not a single camera shot is wasted or unnecessary. The script crackles, the cast is uniformly excellent, and Ford and Lee Marvin in particular are unforgettably intense. Ford, just when he's about to go way over the top, reins himself in, adding to the aura of barely suppressed violence in his character.
The movie can also lurch from plot exposition to sudden, economical and unexpected explosions of violence which can still shock today and must have been extremely confronting fifty years ago. And from there it can become suddenly, unexpectedly sensitive and moving.
Nothing is wasted in this movie. Everything is nailed down just right. It's not that they don't make them like this any more; it's more that they've been making them like this ever since, and generally to lesser and lesser effect.
A strong 8 out of 10.
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