The Racket (1951) is one of those movies that should have been a lot better than it was. It has a great cast (Robert Ryan, Robert Mitchum and Lizabeth Scott), but because of flaccid directing and dialogue copped from even worse pictures, this cops and crooks story is robbed of all potential. There is one great line, though: says Ryan to Scott, “You cheap, clip joint canary.” Typecast as the brutal criminal, Ryan was unable to make the better of his role in this picture. He plays the head of a racket that is paying off cops and politicians. Mitchum, playing the honest cop, is out to get Ryan first on the stand, then convicted, and finally behind bars. As the plot runs its course, the gangsters shoot all their cronies before they can confess, and the cops shoot all the gangsters before they can, too. So—in the end, it’s not like anything’s changed.
Cullen Gallagher is a Brooklyn-based writer, musician, and curator whose work has appeared in The Los Angeles Review of Books, The Life Sentence, Moving Image Source, Bright Lights Film Journal, Beat to a Pulp, NoirCon, Crimefactory, Film Comment, The L Magazine, The Brooklyn Rail, Fandor, Not Coming to a Theater Near You, Hammer to Nail, Spinetingler, Between Lavas, Reverse Shot, and Guitar Review. He records instrumental music as Modern Silent Cinema and plays in the hardcore band Night Squad.