Act of Violence

Van Heflin in Act of Violence (dir. Fred Zinneman, 1948).

Robert Ryan.

Van Heflin, Mary Astor, and Berry Kroeger.

Frank Enley (Van Heflin) is a solid citizen: a war vet and a successful contractor with a beautiful, adoring wife (Janet Leigh). Joe Parkson (Robert Ryan) is an old army buddy who remembers all too well that Frank's history has some blemishes in it. Now Joe is on a near-maniacal vendetta, having traveled across the continent to see justice done--his way (tagline: "the manhunt no woman could stop"). The two leads offset each other nicely: each is sympathetic in his way, but both are just screwed up enough to make you consider rooting for the other guy. When the showdown finally comes, it's a rehearsal for Zinneman's later masterpiece High Noon, clock and all.

Heflin and Ryan are both in top form, but the real revelation here is Mary Astor as Pat, a hooker with a heart of thin gold plate ("You're unhappy? There's no law says you've got to be happy"). If you only know her from The Maltese Falcon, you may be stunned at her range upon watching this. Also riveting is Berry Kroeger (billed as Barry Kroeger), playing a hit man with a terrifying smile and the personality of a scorpion.

Excellent cinematography by Robert Surtees and score by Bronislau Kaper.

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