Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Side Street

Monday, September 29, 2008

Okay, this is the next one in my set, and it marks a reunion I was not particularly looking forward to...

Notable Talent: ... namely, that of Farley Granger and Cathy O'Donnell, stars of They Live By Night. I've watched 13 movies so far for Noir Month, and that was the only one I didn't at all like. On the upside, the director this time is Anthony Mann, who did the pretty good western Man From Laramie and otherwise has a strong reputation. Oh, and that lady with the shrill voice in Singing in the Rain has a small role here and steals the 2 or 3 scenes she's in.

Detective Story: It opens with some voiceover narration from a police detective... hallelujah! It seemed like I was finally getting a detective movie. But then it turns out that the detective is only a small side character. This is more of a crime movie. I should have named this category "subgenre."

Twisty, Turny Plot: Yeah, I would say the story is one of the strongest features of Side Street. It takes some amusing turns here and there, keeps you guessing. It's not really a mystery, but it's not straightforward either.

Moral Ambiguity: An acceptable amount. Farley Granger is a poor mail man who gives in to temptation and steals what he thinks is a small amount of money... but turns out to be $30,000 that belongs, unbeknownst to Granger, to some rather unsavory individuals. Oops. So Granger's not exactly a saint, but he feels guilty and tries to to return the money. Somehow, that only makes things worse, and Granger has to make a mad dash to save himself and his family. So maybe it's a little Old Testament, with the hero paying greatly for a small infraction.

Sweet-ass Shadowy Black and White Cinematography: Pretty good looking movie, and Mann does a good job of making New York look huge and threatening. Also some good stuff in darkened hallways and smoky nightclubs.

Overall Quality: I was a little distracted while watching this, and my expectations were pretty low after They Live By Night, so I feel like I didn't give this one as much focus as I should have. But it was a great improvement over the last Granger/O'Connell film, I thought it was a reasonably entertaining crime movie. Granger still seems like a pussy, but this time it's perfect because his character is supposed to be just a regular guy. The story is interesting enough, there's a pretty good car chase and some memorably cold-blooded moments of violence. But it's also maybe a little too pat in the end, meanders in places, and I still don't care much for O'Donnell as an actress. Okay, not great, maybe worth another shot some day.

Definitely beats the shit out of They Live By Night, though:

1) The Set Up
2) Act of Violence
3) Crime Wave
4) Night and the City
5) The Big Steal
6) The Wrong Man
7) Illegal
8) Angel Face
9) Shoot the Piano Player
10) Gun Crazy
11) Mystery Street
12) Side Street
13) Decoy
14) They Live By Night

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