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The Racket
The Racket
Director: John Cromwell
NR     1hr 29min


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Movie Details

Director: John Cromwell
Creators: Robert Mitchum, Lizabeth Scott, Robert Ryan
Studio: Warner Brothers
Format: DVD - Black and White
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/1951
Run Time: 1hr 29min
Screens: Black and White
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 3
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)

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Movie Reviews

Half-hearted, Disjointed Tale of Organized Crime and Politic
mirasreviews | McLean, VA USA | 09/25/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)

"For this 1951 version of "The Racket", executive producer Howard Hughes reworked the 1928 film "The Racket", which he had also produced. Both films are based on the popular Bartlett Cormack play that was a thinly disguised dramatization of Al Capone's organized crime operation in Prohibition-era Chicago. In stereotypical Howard Hughes fashion, this version of "The Racket" suffered from endless rewrites, reshoots, and multiple directors. John Cromwell got the directing credit, but Nicholas Ray did a lot of the reshoots, and there were several one-day directors in there too. If you notice discontinuities in the film, they are most likely due to reshoots. Sam Fuller wrote a script that Hughes rejected. William Wister Haines' script was accepted, but Hughes called on W.R. Burnett to do rewrites. Some of Howard Hughes' messy productions turned out great, but "The Racket" isn't one of them.

As the Congressional Crime Commission solicits cooperation from state politicians in fighting organized crime, the officials in this unnamed city have always thought it best to cooperate with the syndicate. An election is coming up, and city prosecutor Mortimer Welsh (Ray Collins) has been promised a county judgeship by the local racket. Police Captain Tom McQuigg (Robert Mitchum), an honest, stubborn anti-crime crusader, has just been transferred to the election district when a corrupt city official who was fingered by the Crime Commission is gunned down. McQuigg knows just where to look for the culprit. He pays a visit to crime boss Nick Scanlon (Robert Ryan), an old-school gangster who has little patience for the mob's new methods of using legitimate fronts and less conspicuous violence. McQuigg vows to see Nick pay for his crimes, but modernization of the syndicate may get him first.

Robert Ryan's performance is the reason to see "The Racket". It doesn't have much depth, but Ryan's commitment to his character steals the show. Robert Mitchum is phoning this one in. He seems bored and can't even manage a believable reaction shot. A lot of little stuff in this film doesn't make sense or seem to have a purpose. "The Racket" suffers from convolution in place and time. The play upon which it is based took place in 1920s Chicago. The bureaucratizing and legitimizing of the mob that are prominent in this version refer to the 1930s. And allusions to the Congressional Crime Commission place the film in the 1950s. It feels like a patchwork -and its editors would probably agree that it is. There is an interesting subplot about an ambitious cop (William Talman) who risks his family and his life for self-promotion. This is an awfully talented cast with a bad script -or, rather, scripts. It's too bad that Hughes didn't go with Sam Fuller's approach to the material instead.

The DVD (Warner Brothers 2006): The single bonus feature is a good audio commentary by film historian Eddie Muller. Muller discusses the history of both films and the play and compares them, the 3 different scripts for the film, the multiple directors and reshoots, Hughes relationships with the actors and directors, themes, cinematography, and shares some astute observations about what is good and what is bad in "The Racket". Subtitles are available for the film in English, French, and Spanish."
A slow starter, but a fine crime drama
Trevor Willsmer | London, England | 08/10/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)

"I'd never been able to get past the first couple of reels of The Racket on TV and it certainly looked like being the makeweight of Warner's new Film Noir collection, but once you get past the lunking Howard Hughes-imposed Nicholas Ray-directed prologue turns into a surprisingly engaging and gripping crime drama. Structurally it's certainly unusual, probably as a result of Hughes' typical interference - it's more than 17 minutes before Mitchum makes his entrance, and there are some sporadically awkward crosscuts to inserts shot by Ray and others after John Cromwell (who starred in the play the film was based on in the 1920s) had left.

Robert Ryan is surprisingly not quite there onscreen for once: not exactly bad, but somewhere between phoning it in and, in his early scenes at least, possibly drunk on set - his timing is slightly askew, his usual excellent instincts abandoned along with his sense of proportion in moments that are just a little over the top. But there's so much to admire that even the unlikely escalation of the feud between the two protagonists is carried along. There's a fine shootout in a garage, a neat car chase that sees the cops plow through a billboard for a mob-backed political candidate and a terrific death scene at the end. The supporting cast are intriguing too, with William Conrad's cop and Ray Collin's DA both corrupt but not so entirely that they're lost causes: they exist in a gray area that throws the leads into sharper relief.

Eddie Mueller's audio commentary is the only extra, but it's quite excellent and well worth listening to."
Good, Cynical Cop Movie!
Mcgivern Owen L | NY, NY USA | 06/28/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"It would be difficult to conjure a more cynical big city police story than "The Racket". One could argue that R is not truly "noir". It does possess a great background and atmosphere, though the Midwest location is never identified. R features two solid performances by the leads and an excellent supporting cast of both hard working cops and those on the other side of the law. Some add to the brew by playing "both sides". Robert Mitchum stands tall as a tough uncompromising Police Captain, standing for no nonsense on his watch. His phlegmatic persona is just right for the role. RM's polar opposite is the main bad guy (at least the most obvious one), Robert Ryan. RR tears up his scenes as a tough veteran hood, who thinks he can talk, bully or buy his way over or around the Law. Does he meet his match in Mitchum? Folks will just have to watch the movie but sparks will fly. Ray Collins is excellent as the venal DA, intent only on becoming a hand-picked judge. Robert Conrad plays an achingly dirty cop. Viewers-and Mitchum-wait for justice to awake and pinch these guys. A nice sub plot is provided by a romance twixt Lizabeth Scott and Ryan's brother. Liz is back to the good girl/bad girl role which best suits her. Another fine performance is that of Don Porter, Ryan's buttoned up, semi- Ivy League, boss. (Didn't he play Ann Sothern's boss on the old "Private Secretary" show?). According to Silver and Ward's "Film Noir", R had production problems thanks to interference from RKO boss Howard Hughes, with several rewrites and re-shootings. Those were not obvious to this reviewer. Cop movies don't get much better than "The Racket". Corruption, cynicism and all, most police officers are favorably portrayed here. This is a rare black and white release that would not suffer from colorization. Recommended!
Probably of most interest to fans of Robert Ryan and Robert
C. O. DeRiemer | San Antonio, Texas, USA | 02/01/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)

"The Racket, no noir just a big city crime story, is as predictable as a fig newton. Still, in some ways the movie as like finding out at first bite that your fig newton is made with pumpkin.

Captain Tom McQuigg (Robert Mitchum) is a big, tough cop in charge of a go-nowhere precinct. He's been bounced from precinct to precinct, not because he's a failure but because he's honest. His city is filled with corruption, vice, the name it. Nick Scanlon (Robert Ryan), just as big a guy as McQuigg, just as tough and with a preference for violence, has run the city for years. Scanlon and McQuigg have a history that goes way back. Scanlon has the city under his thumb. It's Scanlon who sees to it that McQuigg gets the worst assignments and the lousiest precinct. If McQuigg won't play the game, Scanlon will make his life as hard as he can. Recently Scanlon has started a partnership with a big, out-of-town syndicate run by The Chief, a man no one knows. The Syndicate wants to grow opportunities in Scanlon's territory and Scanlon wants more of the big-time. It's a partnership as unstable as a one-legged man on a merry-go-round. And it looks like only Captain Tom McQuigg is determined enough and smart enough to stop Scanlon in his tracks.

There's nothing here that hasn't been done over and over. Director John Cromwell, however, keeps the clichés from bumping into each other too often. The story moves briskly along. But it's Mitchum and Ryan who make the movie worth watching. They're the unexpected pumpkin in the stale fig newton. Mitchum had finished his debt to society after his marijuana bust. Studio owner Howard Hughes wanted Mitchum in a role that would be on the side of the angels, with no fooling around on the other side. So Mitchum is a relentless good guy. He has no romantic interest except, seen one or twice, a good-looking, brave, supportive wife who Mitchum honors and loves. Mitchum's McQuigg plays by the book and even gives a speech or two condemning corruption. He's smart and clever, but his tricks to capture Scanlon are all aboveboard. Opposing him is Robert Ryan, who winds up playing a crook who is almost a psychopath. Scanlon cares for his younger brother, but slaps the kid around. He takes out inconvenient witnesses. He doesn't mind ordering a cop killed and doesn't mind doing the killing himself if need be. At times, he gets really, really mad.

Mitchum and Ryan were big men. When they face off with others in the room, the others look small. While this movie isn't all that good, both men give solid performances and neither, in my view, is able to outshine or out act the other. Mitchum had plenty of star charisma by the time the movie was made. Ryan has plenty of actor charisma. I wound up watching them both and wondering what either of them would do next.

The Racket is not an especially interesting movie, but Mitchum and Ryan give it what class it has. They played together in Crossfire, a film worth watching, with both men contributing a lot to that good movie. Lizabeth Scott, given little to do as a nightclub singer who turns on Scanlon, makes what she can of a seriously underwritten part.

If you're a Robert Ryan fan, you might be interested in these lesser known films of his: The Woman on the Beach ( Una Mujer en la playa ) [ NON-USA FORMAT, PAL, Reg.2 Import - Spain ], The Set-Up, On Dangerous Ground, Inferno and The Day of the Outlaw. They're worth tracking down."