Act of Violence (1948) Fred Zinnemann (2x)
Warner Film Noir Classic Collection, Vol. 4 DVD
World War II hero Frank Enley (Van Heflin) is a well-respected man in Santa Lisa, California and has everything going for him: a wonderful wife named Edith (Janet Leigh) and a little boy named Georgie.
But when Frank discovers that one of his war buddies Joe Parkson (Robert Ryan) desperately wants to see him, he panics. No one knows why, but Frank’s fear forces him into hiding.
Act of Violence is another film noir that I originally saw years ago and was delighted to revisit. The film is really two films in one. The first half is a dramatic thriller as Frank is on the run from Parkson and we aren’t sure why. The second half shows Frank escaping into a dark underworld filled with hitmen, shady lawyers and prostitutes, all of whom want to “help” Frank. This is the world of noir, plain and simple, dark and bottomless.
Zinnemann manages to pack an incredible amount of tension and suspense into just 82 minutes. The tension never lets up and the performances are wonderful. I had forgotten that the film also features Mary Astor as an aging prostitute; she’s spectacular in the role. Perhaps most importantly, Act of Violence was one of the earliest films to openly and honestly address the problems of returning WWII veterans and the ethics of decisions made under the duress of war. Don’t miss it.
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