FORCE OF EVIL

"Hey, next time you kiss me - no tongue!" (1948)
With John Garfield, Thomas Gomez, Beatrice Pearson, Marie Windsor, Roy Roberts
Directed by Abraham Polonsky
Black and White
Reviewed by JL

    Ignored for years after its release, FORCE OF EVIL became a cult classic of film noir once its political subtext seemed less threatening.  The film's use of the illicit numbers racket as a metaphor for big-business corruption is all but lost on most viewers today (perhaps because corporations have found entirely new ways to be corrupt), yet FORCE OF EVIL still works as a study of greedy mob bosses and shady lawyers, and the morally ambiguous world in which they operate.  John Garfield is fine as the mob lawyer on the take who may or may not eventually be overcome by his own decency.  But it's Thomas Gomez who nearly steals the picture as Garfield's brother, the boss of the local numbers operation.  There's several moral shades of gray in the powerful scenes between Garfield, a man of questionable ethics in a respected profession, and Gomez, a man of moral strength in an illegal profession. 5 - JL

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