Friday, October 05, 2007

Revisit: Force of Evil

An MGM film 1948

Directed by Abraham Polonsky

Writing by Abraham Polonsky & Ira Wolfert

Lawyer Joe Morse (John Garfield) wants to consolidate all small-time numbers racket operators into one big powerful operation. But he is met with conflict from his elder brother Leo (Thomas Gomez), who as one of those small-time operators prefers not to deal with the gangsters who dominate the big-time.

Watch a clip from Force of Evil here!

Abraham Polonksy's directorial debut is a noir masterpiece, a film that effectively depicts a world rampant with greed, corruption, and dispair. Polonsky, who had already achieved a name for himself as a scriptwriter, most notably for the gritty boxing film Body and Soul also starring John Garfield, was eventually blacklisted under the HUAC communist investigations. Watching Force of Evil, it's hard to separate Polonsky's political views from the story, which comes off as a strong critique of capitalist practices. However, the film contains with such beautiful wordplay and lingual puns that it's almost breathtaking. Likewise, the complex relationship between the brothers forms a delicate psychological, emotional and narrative core - a great example of powerful noir filmmaking. The film was a key influence on Scorsese's Raging Bull and, surprisingly enough, was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry. A must see.

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