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.
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
This punchy little noir moves along at brisk clip. Glenn Ford simmers the whole time like a boiling kettle about to blow . This man has no pleasures that are obvious except his Westinghouse wife and child. Lee Marvin barely maintains control for much of the film. He is a catalogue of evil and greedy excess. Gloria Grahame is marvelous, witty, beautiful, bitter beyond hope. There is no redemption to be had for most of the characters in this sordid little universe. Conspiracy theorists of the 21st century will look back at the kind of simple-minded corrupt worldview espoused by Lang in this and other films and lament its loss. In THE BIG HEAT, evil and rot have names and faces and with enough fortitude, and the willingness to lose everything, they can be conquered. At least for a day. We know today that the whole infrastructure of power is poisoned beyond repair. The fifties held out a modicum of hope. Brief, fleeting hope. This is a violent film. Others have commented that much of the horror is committed off screen. But you can easily imagine it. Lang doesn't pull many punches here. The treadmill of denouement speeds up rapidly in the last few sections of the film. After viewing a film like THE BIG HEAT, I often want to wander down some dark street and find a corner diner, something like the one portrayed in Hoppers's NIGHTHAWKS, and have a cup of java, listen to some Brubeck on the jukebox, and wait for someone to come in from the chilly street . But the diners in my neighbourhood are either in the middle of the block or close early because of street crime. So I stay home, have a cup of tea, and dream noirish thoughts half asleep on my couch. This is a fine entry into the film noir lexicon.
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