Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Racket (1951)

Robert Mitchum is The Justice Machine
- Robert Mitchum and Robert Ryan have co-starred in a number of films (Crossfire (1947), The Longest Day (1962), Anzio (1968)) but they have not shared much screen time together. However, these two titans of film noir go head-to-head here in The Racket (1951).

A new large crime organization, led by the mysterious "Old Man," has moved into town and gulped up other smaller local crime outfits like gangster Nick Scanlon's (Robert Ryan) operation. Scanlon is being used by this organization to put their man into a judge position.... but he might have been the wrong man for the job. While "The Old Man" is just looking to spread influence and make money, Scanlon is cracked and old school, preferring violence over sneaky means to get the job done. One too many violent acts leads to the honest and adept police captain Thomas McQuigg (Mitchum) being brought in to take Scanlon down.

A remake of the Oscar-nominated 1928 silent film of the same name, 1951's The Racket is a very entertaining film noir(ish) crime thriller. What started with Howard Hughes' usual meddling actually ended up being a positive outcome for the film in that it added to the original nature that the film has. Hughes and Nicholas Ray's (Hughes' puppet director) added-in off-beat intro for the film sets up the conflict to come and once Mitchum enters the fray the film darts into a slick cat-and-mouse game (only the mouse is more like that Tom and Jerry episode where Jerry drinks a potion to give him super strength).

The cast is also very fun to watch - outside of Lizabeth Scott and Robert Hutton, who are almost comically weak in their roles - William Conrad and Ray Collins portray two conflicted lawmen and William Talman gives an especially good performance as shining police officer Bob Johnson. All eyes are on Mitchum and Ryan however, who deliver two great performances that showcases both of their classic screen talents. The clash between Mitchum's upstanding, sharp, and tough cop and Ryan's wicked, rash, and snarling gangster equals one entertaining cinematic mêlée.

CBC Rating: 8/10

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