Force of Evil
Time Out saysOne of the key films of the '40s. From a novel by Ira Wolfert (Tucker's People), it extracts a clinical analysis of the social, moral and physical evils attending on the numbers racket, centering this on a remarkably complex portrayal of the mutual guilt of two brothers caught at opposite ends of the same rat trap: one (Garfield) torn by the realisation that his corruption means the destruction of his brother, the other (Gomez) by his awareness that he was responsible for that corruption in the first place. If their conflict has the authentic ring of tragedy, it is partly because Polonsky uses the iconography of the underworld thriller so skilfully that his touches of allegory and symbolism - like Garfield's last bleak descent down a stairway to discover the reality of his personal hell - are natural outcroppings rather than artificial injections; and partly because the dialogue, terse and unpretentious but given an incantatory quality by its calculated hesitations and repetitions, has an unmistakable tang of gritty urban poetry that floods the entire film. Like no other film of the period, it stands as a testament, its mood - as Polonsky has confessed - being compounded on the one hand by fear of the McCarthy witch-hunts, and on the other by conflict in potential victims doubting the absolute justice of their cause.