Force of Evil
John Garfield made his short career playing almost poetic tough guys from the wrong side of the tracks, and none of those is a more soulful brute than Joe Morse in Force of Evil. A slick lawyer for a New York crime organization, Joe appreciates the easy rewards of the quick, if nonlegit, buck. But when his older brother Leo (Thomas Gomez), a small-time numbers runner, refuses to join the organized syndicate run by Joe's boss, Tucker (Roy Roberts), the brothers find themselves battling each other as the syndicate sets up a numbers fix to break the banks of small-change racketeers like Leo on July 4. Abraham Polonsky's no-budget 1948 writing and directing debut is not only one of the tautest--78 minutes long--noirs of the era, but also an awkwardly gorgeous script (adapted from Ira Wolfert's novel Tucker's People) and a bit of a cult flick for its cursory sociopolitical allegory. Garfield was a pretty open Lefty during the time--the first Hollywood blacklist based on testimonies before the House Un-American Activities Committee came out in 1947--and Polonsky a soon-to-be blacklisted filmmaker himself after refusing to testify in 1951. After Evil he would write but six more screenplays and direct but two more films.