Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Big Steal

Monday, September 22, 2008

Up now for Noir Month, we have what was probably my most eagerly anticipated selection, and when I tell you the "notable talent" you'll see why:

Notable Talent: First and foremost, this movie is a reteaming of the excellent Out of the Past's lead actors Robert Mitchum and Jane Greer. So right there, that's something to be excited about. In recent years, I've really come to bow down at the altar of Mitchum, who seems to be one of the most effortlessly captivating actors ever. Whatever that elusive "it" quality is, he has "it" in spades. Then, to top things off, the director is Don Siegal, tough-guy movie director extraordinaire, famous for such films as Dirty Harry (and a few other Clint Eastwood films), Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and Charley Varrick (okay maybe that last one isn't so famous, but I'm fond of it.) Mitchum + Siegal = something I will watch.

Detective Story: Kinda, yeah, definitely more so than most the other movies I've watched so far. (Why oh why did I think so many of these were going to be detective movies?) There's a sorta detective guy chasing after Mitchum through most of the movie, so that's kind of detective like. I guess.

Twisty, Turny Plot: Complicated, but more in an upbeat, caper-y sort of way. This is probably the most overtly fun of all the noir I've watched this month so far. In fact, I'd say it's practically a comedy, which seems un-noir-like. This is more of a high-spirited, comic thriller, not as dark as the other movies on the list. I guess you could argue that it doesn't really fit in the noir genre, but it's close enough that I'm counting it. Anyways, everyone has complicated motivations, and there's a pretty big twist near the end, and it's all part of the fun.

Moral Ambiguity: Well, this is not some dark, brooding examination of mankind's capacity for evil. Still, there is some fun to be had with the motivations of the characters... it's not not clear right away who's on the level and who isn't. We're clear on who the protagonists are, but for a while we aren't sure if their motives are pure. Which is part of the fun, although it it plays things safe by having all the protagonists turn out to be good and the antagonists turn out to be bad.

Sweet-ass Shadowy Black and White Cinematography: One of my big regrets with noir month is that not enough of the movies have been in the expressionist tradition in terms of the lighting. This movie looks fine and is well made, with particularly strong action given the era, but damn it I want more elongated shadows stretching across the walls and shit. There's probably a little of that here, but since it's an upbeat movie there's none of that dark, nightmarish quality that I dig in noir.

Overall Quality: Fast paced and good fun. Sure, maybe I would have prefered something more hardboiled, but I can't deny good entertainment when I see it. This one kept a smile on my face throughout. And if nothing else, it provided me with the almost Herzog-ian image of Robert Mitchum, in a rumpled suit, running through a herd of goats, trying deperately to lead them out of their pen and into the street.

Probably the most fun I've had so far for Noir Month:

1) Act of Violence
2) Crime Wave
3) Night and the City
4) The Big Steal
5) Illegal
6) Shoot the Piano Player
7) Gun Crazy
8) Mystery Street
9) Decoy

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