Act of Violence | Movie Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Act of Violence


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Recruited as MGM's production chief in 1948, Dore Schary tried to inject the sluggish fantasy factory with a dose of social realism, and one of the first products was this taut sun-washed noir (1949) directed by Fred Zinnemann (High Noon, From Here to Eternity). Robert Ryan is an avenging angel in raincoat and fedora, limping inexorably toward respected California businessman Van Heflin to punish him for his treachery in a German prison camp during the war. Aiding the guilt-ridden traitor are the late Janet Leigh as his flinty wife and Mary Astor as a jaded hooker, both excellent. The studio's polished production works against the moral rot at the heart of the story, but a strong script by Robert L. Richards (Winchester '73) cuts deep into the tortured ethics of the two former POWs. 82 min. Gene Siskel Film Center.

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