Saturday 14 October 2023

Movie Review: Raw Deal (1948)

Genre: Crime Drama Noir
Director: Anthony Mann
Starring: Dennis O'Keefe, Claire Trevor, Marsha Hunt, Raymond Burr
Running Time: 79 minutes

Synopsis: Imprisoned convicted criminal Joe Sullivan (Dennis O'Keefe) is loved by two women: his longtime girlfriend Pat (Claire Trevor), and legal caseworker Ann (Marsha Hunt). Gang boss Rick Coyle (Raymond Burr) arranges for Joe to escape, secretly hoping Joe will be killed in the process to avoid paying him $50,000 owed. But Joe successfully breaks free, and accompanied by both Pat and Ann attempts to avoid a police manhunt while doggedly making his way to a rendevouz with Rick.

What Works Well: The uncompromising drama efficiently focuses on four characters, with plenty of nighttime cinematography allowing director Anthony Mann to emphasize grim Noir aesthetics. Raymond Burr dominates his few scenes as a memorably ruthless mobster.

What Does Not Work As Well: The short length truncates character definitions, but the story still runs out of things to say. Surprisingly little momentum is generated, and the deflationary distractions include a dropped-out-of-nowhere second manhunt for another killer, and a wayward shift in emphasis to Ann's moment of reckoning when forced to use a gun. The love triangle dynamics are awkwardly wedged into the crime milieu, with Pat's jealousy accompanied by whiny narration. What could have been compelling elaborations on Joe's criminal past and his history with Rick are short-changed.

Conclusion: Decently grim style served over undercooked plot elements.

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