If anything, Raw Deal is less about a criminal on the run as it is about the people they've encountered. Be it the women that love him or the men that betrayed him, the film shows how those that encounter Joe invariably have their lives changed. And more often than not, it isn't for the better.
Along with westerns, film noir was the genre where Mann thrived. As he would do with Side Street soon after, he shows a keen eye towards the darkness within humanity. Some become resigned to the fact that illegal activity is how they'll survive in the world while others fully embrace this new life.
And boy, does Raw Deal live up to its title. Its morality is a murky gray at best, neither black nor white. John Alton's cinematography exemplifies this atmosphere, the shadows playing as much of a role as the actors. (The fact that Alton was recognized only once by AMPAS -- though thankfully won -- is something of an insult when it comes to cinematography.)
Raw Deal marked a decided change in how Hollywood told stories. Titles in the years to come had a streak of danger to them, their way of seeing how far they can push the envelope. And Mann was the one who instigated this shift. (Just look at the westerns he made with James Stewart a few years later.)
My Rating: ****1/2