Amid a semi-documentary portrait of New York and its people, Jean Dexter, an attractive blonde model, is murdered in her apartment. Homicide detectives Dan Muldoon and Jimmy Halloran ... See full summary »
Tough L.A. private eye Mike Hammer gives a ride to Christina, a frightened young woman he finds running along the road one night. His car is run off the road by unseen thugs. Hammer is knocked out and Christina is tortured in an unsuccessful attempt to get information from her. They are put back into Hammer's car which then is forced off a cliff. Hammer wakes up in the hospital. Velda, his trusty secretary, informs him that Christina is dead. Pat Chambers, Mike's policeman friend, tells him to stay off the case, but Mike thinks it might be a big story--meaning big money for him--because the FBI is interested. He, Velda, and Nick, his garage mechanic friend, start investigating in hopes of finding out why Christina was killed. Written by
Classic noir that was light years ahead of its time
This film opens out with a bang and never lets up for once. Neglected on its initial release, its this kind of film that influenced both Jean Luc Goddard and Quentin Tarantino, whose "Breathless" and "Pulp Fiction" respectively changed the way films were made for the decade. Its obvious audiences and critics of the time weren't ready for this kind of film. While I'm not sure if its the most well-made film noir, its certainly my favorite to watch. And like any truly great film, it becomes better and better with each viewing.
One aspect that was so ahead of its time was the protagonist. Mike Hammer, as played by Ralph Meeker, is one of the most unsavory "heros" ever in a film up to that time, yet was still a multi-dimensional and interesting character. The aforementioned "Breathless" was obviously influenced by this, which lead to the creation of the modern anti-hero (along with "Yojimbo"). The combination of the expressionist direction of Robert Aldrich and misanthropic screenplay by A.I. Bezzerides perfectly show why Film Noir is such an unique American creation. Robert Aldrich later went on to direct the very popular "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?" and "The Dirty Dozen", but this remains his best film.
However, past all the importance and influence, its great and quickly paced entertainment. If you have any interest in film noir, you owe it to yourself to check this out, one of the last masterpieces of the genre. This is one of those rare films that becomes better and better with each viewing. Plus, if the briefcase seems a bit familiar, try to recall a certain Tarantino flick from 1994. (10/10)
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