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The Racket (1951)

The Racket. Feature film. (1951, 88 mins) IMDB

...Some actors can play good guys or bad guys and some just can't....

I

t's a simple story in some respects. We have a large city in the US. There's a syndicate running gambling etc. There's the cops and the justice system. Both are working together which means the mob keeps right on doing its business except for one cop--a certain Captain McQuigg.

He's an honest cop surrounded by mobsters and crooked cops, crooked prosecuting attorneys and crooked judges. The odds are against him.

Nothing McQuigg does can provide the proof he needs to bring down Nick Scanlon. There's always bribery and faked testimony or the lack of it. We see any numbers of ways Scanlon escapes justice.

In the end, the cops win, but lots happens in between.

McQuigg wins because Scanlon is too hot headed. He defeats himself. The third act is about him going into the police station where he confronts one of the honest cops and shots him. There's evidence he did it and maybe he didn't, but in the end he's tempestuousness took him too far. A young, honest reporter who is a witness, won't back down from Scanlon's intimidation.

This story has been told many times and in the same sort of way, but I liked this film.

It's not strictly a film noir even though it's of that time period and has elements of it. There is even a beautiful woman playing a key role in the story, but not in the way a woman does in, say, DOUBLE INDEMINITY or THE MALTESE FALCON.

Seeing Robert Ryan and I remember THE DIRTY DOZEN. It's hard not to. Apparently he was nothing like the villains he played on screen and I wondered why someone would want those roles. The answer is probably both simple and complex. Taking the role because it's a job and therefore an income. But maybe also a belief that other, different roles will come around. Some actors break free of typecasting, most don't. Many can swing between film, TV and theatre while others are stuck in TV and commercials.

I've seen much worse films than this one and I think this one is under appreciated.

Posted 2009/02/03 at 18h50ET in Movie Commentary.

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