1948 · United States · Directed by Abraham Polonsky
In this classic Film Noir, an ambitious but unscrupulous lawyer (John Garfield, The Postman Always Rings Twice) works for the mob, and scents the prospect of a personal fortune when he helps concoct a plan that will merge all of New York City’s numbers rackets into a single powerful and unbreakable operation.
But one of them is run by his own brother (Thomas Gomez, Key Largo), who is much happier as an independent, mainly because it allows him to apply his own ethical standards to prevent innocent people from being corrupted by his shady activities. And it’s the Cain-and-Abel clash between them that gives the film its tragic dimension.
After a brilliant writing career (Body and Soul), Abraham Polonsky was given a shot at directing, and he turned out one of the most original thrillers of its era, combining poetic dialogue worthy of Clifford Odets (Sweet Smell of Success) with a forensically Marxist critique of the capitalist system (the “force of evil” that underpins everything in American society). Martin Scorsese frequently cited it as one of the most influential films in his life, and it’s easy to see why.