2 April 2005 | rmax304823
Noir is unfocused.
Well, it's got all the right trimmings -- Dick Powell, Thomas Gomez, Lee J. Cobb with a cigar. Names that sound phony and semi-ethnic -- "Guido Marchettis," "Johnny O'Clock". Released in 1947, black and white. High-class setting with diversions into the seedier parts of an unnamed city. Tough cop, greasy heavy, lying ex-girlfriend, innocent blond new girlfriend, treacherous jealous friend.
(Gunshots offscreen) "What's that noise?" "Somebody's got a nasty cough."
"I've got a bullet in my gut and fire in my brain."
"You were in the army. What did you learn?" "What I already knew."
"My man was killed." "Accident?" "Yes -- the war."
The photography is neat and crisp. Rossen's direction is efficient. He moves the bodies about with ease. But the plot is simply lacking in real drama and doesn't have much in the way of character development. There seem to be several unrelated subplots. A young woman seems to have committed suicide, but maybe it's murder. Her sister arrives in town and falls for Johnny O'Clock (Dick Powell) but will they marry? A bad cop disappears. But we don't really get to know any of them to care much about them. And everything is pulled together with a few offhand words by Dick Powell just before the end.
I kind of wanted to like it because I'm fond of noirs and think that Rossen's work elsewhere has sometimes been superb, but this one got by me. People walk around and talk to one another. There are card games and two shootings. Girls smile at men, who dismiss them. It's all on the surface. As the detective says in "Psycho," "If it doesn't jell, it isn't aspic. And this isn't jelling." It's still interesting to watch -- once.