A Bullet For Joey
When he wasn't being hulled in front of McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee, Edward G. Robinson somehow decided to star as the hero in this film. You can tell
Lewis Allen directs this movie and while many label it a Film Noir, it's hard to recognize it as one. I'll get into that more below. Joey Victor (George Raft), a former crime boss, has been exiled from the
First of all, this movie struggles to be called a "film noir". The typical thought is either some detective who walks the fine line of right and wrong or some anti-hero you're suppose to root for. I don't know if Joe Victor is even the main character let alone someone you are suppose to care about and root for. From the description of the film's plot, it made me think that Joe and Leduc would team up to stop the Ruskies once he found out who they were. That doesn't happen until the last seven minutes of the movie. Also, the movie doesn't make it clear that the people who hired Victor are Russian, let alone communists. This movie has several glaring plot holes on top of this, as well as some fine '50s cheese.
The movie doesn't tell you what Dr. Macklin actually does or why he is so important to the Russians. Also, if Dr. Macklin is working on atomic technology for the Americans why is he in
Mobsters of the '50s must have attempted to be smarter in their capers than those of today. If you want to kidnap someone today all you need is about four men and a van. Heck, with the protection that the Mounties provide Dr. Macklin in the film all you need is a .22 and a car.
"Get in the car, Dr. Macklin." brandish the .22. Dr. Macklin gets in the car. Drive to docks. Get paid.
Here, Joe and his gang devise some elaborate plot to earn the doctor's trust by having hard-looking blond, Joyce, seduce him and one of his other men seduce the doctor's secretary to find out what he is working on and where. His handlers aren't in a rush at all either and the amount of time they spend goofing around with this cockamamie plan takes so much time that the Iron Curtain could have fallen by the time he carried out his kidnapping plan.
Let me talk about how idiotic this plan is by wrapping it up. Dr. Macklin falls in love with Joyce who tells him she's leaving to go back to
I will say that Inspector Leduc isn't the typical movie inspector who knows way too much or comes up with the answer just by thinking it through on the first clue.
So at least Inspector Leduc is a believable detective and it's nice to see that he is limited to normal talent of regular detectives. However, when he gets captured he suddenly turns into a man trying to sow distention in the ranks of the crew, is able to freely roam around instead of being rubbed out right then and there, and he has a smarmy way about him. His character completely changes in the last part of the movie and it's a tough sell to do so with the character; Robinson's pudgy and roundness doesn't help the transition any better.
The most glaring plot hole in the movie is even after Dr. Macklin is kidnapped. Leduc and one of his men pose as truck drivers who are transporting Dr. Macklin's secret experiment/device/blender? I have no clue what it is because the movie never tells you. To make matters even worse, the hardest transition I've ever seen happens in this movie. The bad guys have Dr. Macklin and I'm thinking, "Ok, now's the time that Inspector Leduc starts pulling the clues together and figures it all out in time to save Dr. Macklin." Not at all, because the very next scene is Leduc and lackey getting into a truck and you have no clue why. Only much, much, MUCH latter that they are posing as truck drivers transporting Dr. Macklin's secret device to lure the mobsters to capture them and take them to Dr. Macklin and the show runners. All that I wrote after "MUCH" is nothing you find out until after everything I wrote happens. My brain almost exploded from the leap the movie made.
Another problem this movie has is that it only hints that the handlers are communists or even Russian. The movie never tells you where the doctor is being taken to after the kidnapping and there is no speech about how communism is the "cool thing" and a counter speech about how it's "suxorz".
Robinson, as I said, is a pretty good detective for the most part. I do find it funny that a few years after he stood in front of HUAC, he is cast in an anti-communist film. Joe Victor started out as someone you could root for but quickly fades from your fandom. On a side note, no one in this movie refers to Joe Victor as "Joey" so if you're going to stick with the title it should be "A Bullet For Joe". Am I wrong that I expect the person who the bullet is for to be referred to that name at least once if you're going to use it in the main title? So Joe kind of drifts in the background halfway through the movie, but he is smart. He doesn't take chances of being caught. He knows not to use the telephone he's staying at to call any place he doesn't want traced back and he knows when to leave his hiding hole and move on. This along with the normal knowledge held by the inspector, make the two main characters good characters but the plot holes and the quick changes in the characters behaviors made me rooting more for Dr. Macklin to come out with guns blazing and save himself.
There is some fun classic cheese in this film that always tickles me. People who are shot, grab from their midsection where there is no bullet hole. People who are shot, always stop when shot and fall in the spot they are standing. The best death scene in here is the organ grinder towards the beginning. He is force to kill a Mounty and his boss grabs him by his shoulders and throws him out of the camera view. You later find out the organ grinder is dead. That kill rivals on the worst one since the UN officer in "The Omega Code".
I will say this. There are some really great lines given in this film.
Dr. Macklin to a monkey - "Do you know what fools we mortal be? Huh? Do you? Well I think you do. Well don't tell anyone. Let it be our little secret."
Nicky - "It's old Saint Nick himself."
Joyce - "Well climb back up the chimney. I don't like your brand of toys."
There are a few others that I enjoyed as well so it did have some potential of being a good script. There is also a really good scene that has a hitman snipe out one of Joe's crew when he screwed up. It bordered on the feeling like the end of "Godfather" and it had a classic Noir feel to it. Cloaked in shadow the gunmen sat, a long angled shot makes the audience feel as if they were the ones who pulled the trigger. Bang!
The really funny thing about this movie is that I've never heard a mobster refer to using sex to make someone trust you or even refer to sex as "making love". The phrase is used a few times in the movie and it made me giggle. Watch a show like "Sopranos" then watch this movie and it will make you giggle a bit too. Although for 1955, "making love" might be akin to using the "s-word" on TV today. It must have been so taboo.
Grade - C-
Don't let this film discourage you from the great genre that is film noir. While this movie isn't full on noir, it isn't necessarily all that bad. The biggest thing that hurts the movie is the plot holes. The movie gives the audience both sides of the story but slaps them in the face if they ask questions about why something is happen or what is happening. Leduc's undercover scene with transporting the doctor's secret "whatever" threw me so far out of the movie that I found myself on the other side of my viewing monitor. The complexity the mobsters went through to kidnap the doctor is absurd and the final outcome of the kidnapping is just random. The final scenes of the movie are decent enough and Joe has a good last line. I wish they would have spent more than the last seven minutes with Joe and Leduc working together. Sadly, the flaws outweigh the positives in this film. It's not a bad movie, but not a movie I would suggest that people watch who are looking for a good film noir movie. There is a monkey in it however. The title delivers on its name but that fact leaves no guess work as to what the ending in. Plot holes abound so watch out and enjoy the few good lines this movie has to offer.