Having lost his heavyweight championship match, boxer Ernie Driscoll now drives a taxi for a living and earns the scorn of his nagging wife, Pauline, who blames him for her lack of social status. Involved with jewel thief Victor Rawlins, Pauline is murdered by him when she impedes his ability to fence the jewels. Blamed for his wife's murder, Ernie must track down Rawlins before he leaves the country.Written by
Doug Sederberg <email@example.com>
"You're a reckless man, Rawlins. And I don't like reckless men."
I had really only been familiar with John Payne from his role in the Christmas classic "Miracle on 34th Street" and perhaps a forgettable musical or two. Naturally I was amazed at how effective he is in this dazzling, violent noir as a basically decent but brooding and extremely volatile former prize fighter reduced to driving a cab to support his beautiful, cheating wife. His acting is unflinching, unsentimental and completely authentic. He creates nearly as vivid and memorable a hard luck character as Marlon Brando did in "On The Waterfront".
The big city of this film (as presented by the marvelous and criminally under-appreciated director Phil Karlson) is a simultaneous vision of heaven and hell. Frank Faylen, Evelyn Keyes and Eddy Waller are angels, willing to do anything to protect vulnerable Payne (even mislead the police), their faith in his inherent goodness unshakeable despite his tirades and self-destructive tendencies. Brad Dexter, Peggie Castle, Jay Adler and Jack Lambert are devils; selfish, ruthless and evil to the core (although there are shadings to Castle's portrayal of the cheating wife which suggest she does feel some remorse). At one point Payne gets caught in the web of the villainous Adler, who has bigger fish to fry, and explains that he needs to be let go so he can find the man who framed him for murder. "Well, isn't that unfortunate?" Adler coldly responds before having one of his henchman conk Payne on the back of the head.
You'll have a hard time finding a better supporting cast than the one here. One of those rare movies where everyone nails their parts and comes through with a fresh, inspired take. A sly, sturdy, thrilling, consistently surprising picture.
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