the film begins outside a city building where claire trevor’s character just got a divorce and immediately you know you’re in for something different. in many ways it’s a typical noir, but at nearly every turn it’s darker and uglier than even a dark noir like detour. darker and uglier in that the two main characters in this film aren’t even remotely sympathetic. at least in a film like detour you felt bad for the guy’s bad luck. in the dark warner gangster pictures of the 30s/40s you knew the characters were bad, but you were sorta disappointed to see their downfall. audiences pulled for those characters because they were interesting and capable. tierney and trevor are somewhat interesting, not very capable and not at all sympathetic. their victims aren’t much more sympathetic, rather they come off as mostly pathetic. tierney’s wife and trevor’s fiancé are both fine people, but they’re boring and seeing them victimized by their own ignorance and stupidity isn’t all that sad.
the real appeal of this film is in the script. it’s simply fantastic. there are plenty of great one-liners and pearls of wisdom. two characters are in a cafe talking about coffee and one says something like “coffee always smells better than it tastes, have you noticed that?” the other says “As you grow older, you’ll discover that life is very much like coffee – the aroma is always better than the actuality.”
Helen Brent: If you go to the police, you’ll see Laurie [who is dead] sooner than you think.
Mrs. Kraft: Are you trying to scare me?
Helen Brent: I’m just warning you. Perhaps you don’t realize – it’s painful being killed. A piece of metal sliding into your body, finding its way into your heart. Or a bullet tearing through your skin, crashing into a bone. It takes a while to die, too. Sometimes a long while.
there’s plenty more where that came from. just really great writing, the kind of writing you almost never hear anymore. performances were decent. elisha cook, jr. is his usual great self. he’s definitely one of my favorite character actors.