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Treasury agents, desperate to get evidence on syndicate kingpin Dutch Becker, give ex-con hood Casey Martin a choice...life in prison or courting sudden death as a government 'finger man.' Finding that his sister is now a drug addict thanks to Becker, Martin agrees to go undercover. Becker's chief aide proves to be sadistic Lou Terpe, Martin's former cellmate whom he can't stand the sight of. And the danger hanging over Martin expands to threaten those around him... Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
Frank Lovejoy goes undercover to get crime boss Forest Tucker
"Finger Man" is a fine film noir that I've seen 3 or 4 times. A good film starts with a good script. This has it. A good script tells a coherent and gripping story by selecting a scope of action that fits into the 80-100 minute format and scenes that are essential and meaningful. Too many modern movies fail at these basics, by having too much scope or irrelevant scenes or a story that doesn't move along coherently. The modern techniques of story-telling, the sometimes stunning photography, the fast editing, and so on cannot compensate or substitute for the lack of story-telling. The story here is wisely kept to a minimum, mainly detailing how Lovejoy seeks to gain the confidence of Tucker. It's not a big or terrific story by any means, but it does the job, which means we stay with it and lose ourselves in the narrative.
The actors today too often put up a barrier between themselves and the audience by acting and by not inhabiting characters that seem real. The actors in a movie like "Finger Man" are totally convincing and we never for a moment doubt that we are seeing their characters, not actors playing characters. Lovejoy is a tough criminal who is recruited to go undercover and expose crime boss Forest Tucker. Peggie Castle is Lovejoy's love interest, once employed as a b-girl or call girl by Tucker. It's a pleasure to watch such fine acting. Tucker is amazingly good in this role, by underplaying it. His main bodyguard is the unique Timothy Carey. He stares maliciously, he grits his teeth, he does something with his fingers (you'll have to see it), and he even cries like a coward when struck.
I like the way that director Harold Schuster repeatedly uses the environment to show Lovejoy behind "bars" or trapped. In one case he uses a grated fencing at a transportation terminal, in another a window's wooden slats, and in another a basement fence. The film begins and ends with dark streets.
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