Friday, October 21, 2011

Act Of Violence (1948)

Violent Acts

- The dust has settled and the bodies have been buried, but World War II is still very alive in the hearts and minds of Frank Enley (Van Heflin) and Joe Parkson (Robert Ryan) - especially one particular incident. Frank has tried to get on with his life, with a beautiful and loving wife, young child, and successful career he has done a pretty good job of moving on. But for Joe Parkson, every limped step he takes brings him back to that dark day - and he blames Frank. Moving on is impossible for Joe, revenge is the only thing that makes sense and he is determined to satisfy his craving for retribution.

A deeply psychological story, shrouded in a dark look and driven by its equally dark characters, Act Of Violence (1948) is a great film noir. Van Heflin's name makes me laugh (doesn't it sound like he's some kind of Viking super-hero?), but his performance does not. Heflin is excellent and shocking in his portrayal of a Frank - a man who can no longer suppress his tired and tormented mental state. Robert Ryan gives a spine-tingling performance of Joe. Ryan's strong suit is being intimidating and menacing at an outstanding yet credible level and he sure does that in this film. Also, Janet Leigh is beyond terrific as Frank's wife Edith and Phyllis Thaxter is also good as Joe's "girl" Ann - both characters trying to stop acts of violence to occur between both their men. Despite being in a supporting role, from the moment she starts to do her thing you can tell that Mary Astor is the film's strongest acting card. Known most for her damsel role in The Maltese Falcon (1941), Astor shows she has range with her exceptional portrayal of Pat, an aging and worn out hooker.

But while all the people in front of the camera are all excellent, Act Of Violence sees some talented people behind it as well. Legendary director and cinematographer, Fred Zinnemann and Robert Surtees respectively, put together a terrific and memorable visual product. We have seen darkness, revenge and haunting pasts before in films noir, but Act Of Violence has many high quality and engaging aspects that set it apart.

CBC Rating: 9/10

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