Saturday 18 November 2023

Movie Review: Night And The City (1950)

Genre: Noir Drama
Director: Jules Dassin
Starring: Richard Widmark, Gene Tierney, Googie Withers, Francis L. Sullivan, Herbert Lom, Hugh Marlowe
Running Time: 101 minutes

Synopsis: In London, Harry Fabian (Richard Widmark) is a small-time hustler determined to make it big. To finance his far-fetched schemes he constantly demands money from his increasingly exasperated girlfriend Mary (Gene Tierney), who works at the nightclub owned by businessman Phil Nosseross (Francis L. Sullivan) and his wife Helen (Googie Withers). After meeting retired Greco-Roman wrestling legend Gregorius, Harry believes he can become an influential wrestling promoter. For different reasons, Nosseross, Helen, and Gregorius' son Kristo (Herbert Lom), himself a financier of entertainment wrestling, are all interested in Harry's venture.

What Works Well: The adaptation of Gerald Kersh's book is a grim, plot-rich, and relentless journey through London's underworld. As Harry Fabian, Richard Widmark's combustible mix of desperation, self-belief, and smarminess scorches the screen, as his obsessive search for a shortcut to riches obsures ever-increasing risks. Director Jules Dassin adds a deep set of well-rounded characters pursuing conflicting agendas, and peppers the drama with London riffraff: a forger, a beggar merchant, and a riverfront smuggler all influence Harry's destiny. Strained relationships underpin motivations, including the unhappy Nosseross marriage, Gregorius' disappointment in his son Kristo, and Mary believing in Harry even as he tests her limits. 

What Does Not Work As Well: Other than Mary and her non-entity neighbour Adam (Hugh Marlowe), none of the characters are deserving of much sympathy.

Conclusion: Big plans for rich rewards come with hefty hazards.

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