Dave Burke is looking to hire two men to assist him in a bank raid. Both are reluctant; but Burke arranges for Ingram’s creditors to put pressure on him, while Slater feels humiliated by his failure to provide for his girlfriend; they eventually accept. But tensions in the gang rapidly mount.
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SPOILER: Gritty & nerve-wracking. The script by blacklisted writer Abraham Polonsky (who used a "front" for this film) is downright disturbing from the first line (picking up an African-American child, Ryan tells her: "You little pickaninny. You're gonna get yourself killed flyin like that.") to the last (referring to the two indiscernibly charred bodies, one Black, the other white: "Which is which? Take your pick.")
Another solid effort from Wise. At times it feels like it might reach the level of other great heist noirs like The Killing or The Asphalt Jungle, but it never quite gets there. Even so, it's a beautifully shot film and also very good. And the social implications of the film are important when putting it in historical context as well.
I feel this film isn't so much about race as it is about the key theme present at the heart of every noir: dignity. Whether by war, racism or modern economy, our leads have been deprived of their dignity, they can't find it in their work or in their homes and erroneously think money will give it back to them, regardless of how they earn it. The dropping of Ecclesiastes 9:10 can't be a coincidence. By far my fav noir.
Everyone involved did a great job. The long waiting sequence before the heist has a poetic/realist quality, that is very unusual for a Hollywood film of that time...New York, end of the fifties: the look, the music - nothing has ever been so cool...
The anti-racism message is a bit obvious, though for a 1959 society (and today, even) that was probably a good thing. John Lewis' jazzy score is at times classy and suspenseful, similar to what Miles Davis did for Elevator to the Gallows around this time. Overall a decent heist/desperate men film.