Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Monday, September 22, 2008

Okay, after an unintended break of a week and a half, I'm back to that film noir set I bought. If nothing else, I plan on watching all 10 from the set by the end of Noir Month.

Notable Talent: Oh, only, Edward G. fucking Robinson, that's all. I can't profess a great knowledge of his acting career, but I can say that he's rocked in every single movie I've seen him in. You youngsters might recognize him as the inspiration for the voice of Chief Clancy Wiggum. Also, apparently DeForest Kelly from Star Trek was somewhere in here but I couldn't tell you who he was.

Detective Story: Not really, although it's heavily focused on the law. I'm not really sure what to classify this one as. It's about a successful prosecutor who sends an innocent man to the electric chair. He feels so guilty that he quits his job, and becomes a defense attorney. I've read some blurbs or reviews about this one that says it's not really a noir... I'm not sure I agree. It's not noir in the strictest sense, but it's a sort of cockeyed, darkly humorous half-crime film with some noir-ish themes.

Twisty, Turny Plot: It's not a straight mystery, but it definitely twists and turns as it goes, with some big reveals. A lot of the story is driven by Robinson's character, and we're never quite sure what he's planning, what he's up to next...

Moral Ambiguity: ...which brings me to this. For a long while, it's not really clear if Robinson is a good guy or not. Once he becomes a defense attorney, he states defending some unsavory people, and begins to manipulate everyone in order to secure as much money as he can for himself. He seems like a pretty shady asshole, but then we realize that all the people he's screwing over are bad, and in a weird way he seems to be dishing out justice to the bad guys. It's less like he's gone bad, and more like he's executing or enacting his own new found sense of morality. Word.

Sweet-ass Shadowy Black and White Cinematography: Even though we meet some gangster types, this one takes place more in office and courtrooms, not so much on the mean streets. I didn't feel like this one popped out visually.

Overall Quality: Pretty solid. This is not a great movie by any means, but it's entertaining, and Edward G. Robinson is a lot of fun. The description made this movie sound more gruff, so I was surprised to see how much of this movie was played for laughs. Like I mentioned before, I saw it argued that this movie isn't really noir, and I'm betting it's the occasionally playful tone that throws people off. Still, it's got a moral ambiguity about it, deals with crime, has a little bit of action, and what's turning out to be the prototypical noir ending: the only way the hero can redeem himself is to sacrifice himself.

No great shakes, but this was more entertaining and satisfying that several other films so far:

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

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