Force of Evil (1948)

Wallis: "What do you mean gangsters? It's business!"
By Abraham Polonsky
With John Garfield, Thomas Gomez and Marie Windsor

I can't be sure whether I met Force of Evil through accident or if it was after seeing Marie Windsor in The Killing (1956), in any event, the fact that I'm in a heavily film noir hungry period made me see it.

Force of Evil is the story of Joe Morse, a lawyer who makes a living through people who run illegal numbers banks, which is what lotteries, illegal at the time, were called. Joe has found a way to make good money, but it might hurt his brother, Leo Morse, who runs one of those banks. Leo, despite running an illegal bank is a lot more ethical than Joe and he won't get convinced so easily.

What struck me at first in the movie were the desolate, Kafkaesque shots of New York. The streets almost empty. I have to say it was difficult to get into at first, not only because the amount of information is quite high right away, but because I had no idea about lotteries and illegal banks. Once this became clearer I realized it was simply another way for gangsters and crooks to make money and regulate the competition. The film was still complicated in most of its story line, but it dealt with interesting themes such as redemption and second chances. I wasn't entirely convinced, but this might be one of the movies that require more than just one sit through.

I liked: The bare streets of New York. Leo and Doris both did a really good job. The clever use of the telephones.

I disliked: Confusing. The character of Joe is hard to discern.

Economical crime is the name of the game, but crime as a general rule doesn't stop at simply one thing. I never had much interest in the lottery and gambling as a whole but those who do should find more to this movie.


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