Friday, November 27, 2015

Kiss of Death

Henry Hathaway's Kiss of Death opens with a department store jeweler getting robbed. It's a quick operation for hoodlum Nick Bianco (Victor Mature) but he gets caught. He refuses to snitch in exchange for a lighter sentence but after his personal life starts to crumble, he reconsiders.

As a result, he gets paroled and a new lease on life. Then Bianco is recruited to get information on another hoodlum running loose in New York City. Unfortunately for Bianco, that hoodlum is Tommy Udo (Richard Widmark), a ruthless gangster with the grin of a killer. And Udo doesn't like snitches.

Kiss of Death, like several noirs in the years to come, shows domesticity amid the danger. It shows how Bianco mainly committed his various crimes for the sake of his family. (In fact, the opening robbery is one such example.) Not very often you see that.

Also, Bianco's portrayal as a family man is a nice foil to Udo's vicious attitude. The caring against the heartless, the sensible against the brutal. Foils are common throughout noir, but Kiss of Death has a prime example.

Kiss of Death is a very well done film noir, especially Widmark's performance. (That's one hell of a way to kickstart a career in Hollywood.) Being a post-war noir, it shows the discourse within the home front. And boy, what discourse it is.

My Rating: ****

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