Kansas City Confidential (1952)

Joe Rolfe: "Take a good look Pete, you're looking at the patsy that was framed for the kill."
By Phil Karlson
With John Payne, Preston Foster and Lee Van Cleef

Kansas City Confidential is one of those old movies that fell into the public domain by lack of care by the, then rightful, owners. In a way, it was just standing there for me to check out and since it seemed to be a good film-noir, I decided to see it.

The film starts with a man watching over his windows' blinds, noting down the time when a truck arrives at the florist and the time when another truck arrives at the bank next to the florist. An heist will take place. The man, however, needs to rack up a few associates for the deed. He invites three men, one by one, but he wears a mask so they can't see him. The money is stolen, with masks on and he tells them that the money will be split at a later date, and that he will contact each one of them when the time is right. In the mean time, Joe Rolfe, an ex-convict who is now working as a delivery guy for the florist, is being the fall guy that the police is trying to have confess. The police clears him, but the media do not and he finds himself on the run, trying to find the real culprits.

The movie is really well thought and I quite enjoyed the script. The idea of the mask in particular works really well as we see each character discover, or try to discover, each others' identity. I was a bit confused during the first part, as I had troubles recognizing who was everyone and if someone was the same person, and/or involved in the coup. The atmosphere in that hotel down in Mexico is tense and anyone could betray the other and try to get a bigger part of the share. I think this was one of the strengths of the movie, mostly carried out by the fine acting of the ensemble. As it is common with movies at the time, there is also a slight element of romance that creeps in the middle. There are a lot of guns involved, but most of the time the action ensues over fist fights, which I thought was a little repetitive.

I liked: Well thought robbery. The mask and mixed identities. The use of Mexico as a hide-out. Intense close-ups during tense scenes.

I disliked: The mystery dries out a little after the first half. Uneven characters.

A solid crime movie, very little of the money is seen, but everything revolves around it.


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