Day 35 of 365.
Trying something new here tonight. I watched The Crooked Way with my dad tonight. I thought I’d give it a review and analyze the story as well as the visuals.
The Crooked Way is a classic film noir about Eddie Rice, a war hero with amnesia. He is discharged from the hospital and decides to return home to rediscover who he is. He discovers that in his past he was a criminal, and now must face the cops and other mobsters he use to run with.
I really loved this script. It’s a very cut and dry mystery. The plot is set up right away, doesn’t have a lot of exposition. You know what motivates the character right away, which is rediscover who he is. He’s thrown into a messy situation of trying to figure out who the different people around him are. He doesn’t know who to trust, and he doesn’t know what he did. This sets up a ton of tension immediately, and moves the film forward. There’s no single scene that doesn’t do one of two things: one, reveal a clue as to who he is, what he’s done, and who these people are around him; two, move the plot along. The script is very deliberate. It’s good script writing, and I’m sure part of it is because you don’t want to be wasting the film budget. Reshooting a scene or cutting it back in 1949 was really tedious. It’s tedious now, and we have a digital format which makes filming and editing so much easier. I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to create a film back then.
One thing I notice about older films is they’re always very deliberate with the lines and scenes. The actions and script are important in moving the plot along. They don’t waste time on moments that don’t do anything to move the plot. They reveal just enough to hook viewers in and explain important details.
The dialogue of the script is great too. There’s not a ton of lines I remember off the top of my head, but there were some fabulous moments of tension and threats. In once instance the mobster, Vince Alexander, threatens someone. He says, “When you get to where you’re going, have ’em give you a nice, even burn. Don’t let them just fry you on one side.” That line is just pure genius in my opinion. That threat is so well done and just gives him such character. It’s done eloquently but smugly, and has such snark in it. There’s also a scene later on where the cop purposely spills water on Vince. He says sorry in this tone where you know he did it on purpose, but Vince isn’t going say a word because he knows he’s not the one in power.
The delivery of the dialogue, from the actors, does a great way of transferring power from character to character, without the use of our usual cinematography tricks. By that I mean the placement of the camera. There’s certainly some limited angles in this film so rather than showing power by angling the camera up or down on an actor the shot is still. For example in the scene where the cop spills water on Vince you’re set up at a profile angle, and far away from the action. So the power grab is done from the buildup of tension as well as dialogue. If that was done today there would be a close up of the water spilling and the expressions as well as drawn out tension. It’s a great old way to show the tension with the limitations they had.
The cinematography of this film is really well done. There’s all sorts of creative lighting techniques and the black on white or white on black shots are done beautifully. Windows are bright and shiny objects are extremely reflective. The composition of each shot is pretty well done. They weren’t the most amazing in that regard though, but most of them were simplistic. I can’t say that every single frame is like a photograph, but that’s due to the composition. I will say that the lighting is gorgeous. The lighting really (pardon the pun) shines through and is a strong aspect through the entirety of the film.
Over all, it’s not my favorite old film, but there were great nuggets that really gave it great composure. I loved the script and the story is well done. I think the threats and powerplay from the mobsters to the cop to Eddie Rice were all strong. There’s a few things here and there that I would have loved to seen pushed like the death scenes were…under reacted I would say. Part of it comes with the time period, but I still think they were just glazed over. Some side characters weren’t given as much love, example, Petey. I would have liked if his scenes had a bit more attention to his character. Not a lot, because there is a certain amount of balance to making side characters matter, but also not over dramatizing them. They’re important, but if they aren’t serving a purpose then don’t over do their scenes.
Overall I give The Crooked Way a 6.5 to 7 out of 10. I enjoyed it and recommend it to anyone that wants to see a great classic film noir. It’s very action packed and full of mystery. I’m always a fan of learning a bit of film history, and this is certainly in that bracket. It’s got loveable characters and some snappy threats that make it fun.
Anyone else seen it? If so tweet at me! Or send me a recommendation of another classic!