As Night and the City progresses, jealously runs into greed, ambition meets deception, and one double-dealing move encounters a newly revealed double cross. Before he knows it, Harry is in over his head on any number of different fronts.
If it wasn’t obvious enough already for the reader, Jules Dassin’s Night and the City is a stunning example of film noir done right. It is possessed by a nasty bite that drives most of the action and is quite often absolutely ruthless in its execution. Here is a film that pulls no punches, that features too much bleakness for their to be any light to find for refuge.
In the aftermath of the Second World War, the major international powers and their smaller, less imposing friends aligned themselves along two extremely divisive ideological lines: the Western pro-capitalists and the Eastern Bloc, the latter driven by a bastardized version of communism. The present column shan’t delve into lessons of political or economic history of the mid-twentieth century, save to mention the above detail and tie it into film noir.
Four small time gangsters, Kochak (Lewis Charles), his cousin Poldi (Guy Thomojan), Fitch (Zero Mostel) and their de facto leader Blackie (Jack Palance) are playing cards in a seedy part of New Orleans. Kochack, a little dizzy and very sweaty, is visibly ill and demands to leave, much to the consternation of his playing mates, who have unfinished business with him, namely, the cold hard cash he owes them.
Harmony Korine explores the oft avoided subcultures of the United States, John Carpenter’s greater strengths lie in sharing thriller and horror tales and Elia Kazan’s most famous and respected projects were those which directly concentrated on critical social issues affecting the United States during this time, issues which far too many preferred to either shove under the rug or virulently disagreed to reach compromise on. Gentleman’s Agreement, Pinky and On the Waterfront come to mind. He did venture into different territory however, although it felt like even in such attempts his desire to comment on politics or society was never far behind. In 1950 he made Panic in the Streets, a film that falls firmly into the film noir mould while turning a few of its perceivable qualities on their heads.