The Lawless

Film

Film noir

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Time Out says

Losey's second feature, a lynching drama set in a small Southern Californian town beset by racial tensions: local newspaper reporter (Carey), after conquering self-interest under pressure from the girl he loves (Russell), crusades on behalf of a Mexican youth (Rios) falsely accused of having raped a 'white' girl. So far, so conventional, but what gives it an edge of brilliance is Losey's eye for the smalltown locations: the shabby dance hall in the Mexican quarter, the sleepy high street, the one-horse newspaper office, the cosy front porches and the churchgoers, all swept away in sudden primitive starkness as the fugitive is relentlessly hunted over a fantastic wasteland of rocks and rubble. The film also fairly reeks of fear, doubtless a testament to the HUAC witch-hunts, but beautifully woven into Daniel Mainwaring's script in a complex pattern (not just the racial divide, suspicion of the outsider or of anyone challenging the status quo, but the sexual anxieties that drive the 'white' youths to macho bravado in invading the Mexican dance-hall, the fear of losing his job that makes the reporter try to turn a blind eye, and so on).
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Release details

UK release:

1949

Duration:

83 mins

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