Wednesday, July 15, 2009
THE RACKET (1951) - John Cromwell
The great thing about Mitchum is that even when he plays a potentially-boring bastion of "good," as he does with racket-breaker Captain Thomas McQuigg in The Racket, he still lets you see a little bit of the "bad" lurking at the edges. Mitchum, maybe more than other actors of his generation, was all about untucked shirt tails and scuffed cuffs. He wasn't afraid to show you the sordid details and knew that a little bit of character gray in these otherwise black and white cops and robbers tales could go a long way.
Here Mitchum plays the only unbribeable police captain in a top-to-bottom corrupt force, a guy the mob can only get transferred and reassigned but never completely off their ass. Robert Ryan plays the racket's hot-headed front man who uses violence indiscriminately like a lapsed grammarian who ends every other sentence with double exclamation marks. But Mitchum's anger-fueled reserve is more focused and, thus, more deadly. When he puts his man down, it's for good...with a period. His tightly-coiled violence makes you a little uneasy, even when you're on his side.