Act of Violence

The manhunt no woman could stop!

Drama Thriller
82 min     6.8     1949     USA


A former prisoner of war, Frank Enley is hailed as a hero in his California town. However, Frank has a shameful secret that comes back to haunt him when fellow survivor Joe Parkson emerges, intent on making Frank pay for his past deeds.


John Chard wrote:
Post war scabs are picked off with noirish bleakness by Zinnerman and his terrific cast. Act of Violence is directed by Fred Zinnemann and adapted for the screen by Robert L. Richards from a story by Collier Young. It stars Van Heflin, Robert Ryan, and Janet Leigh, with support coming from Mary Astor, Phyllis Thaxter & Berry Kroeger. Robert Surtees photographs it from various California locations and Bronislau Kaper provides the music that is conducted by André Previn. An Embittered former POW (Ryan) is hell bent on revenge against his former commanding officer (Heflin) who betrayed his men's planned escape attempt from a Nazi prison camp. Superior film noir piece that is not only boasting a taut, intelligent and suspenseful story to work from, but also a collective group of film makers on tip top form. The film primarily looks at the point of view of the troubled soldiers who upon returning from war are mentally and physically shot. Some are thriving as the economy in the post war times has picked up, while others are carrying the legacy of battle - - with deep long memories gnawing away with every battle scarred step. They say time is a big healer, particularly with the passing of loved ones and the willingness to forgive those who have done you wrong. But the makers here are not in that frame of mind. The ghosts of the past are not content to sit around in Surtees' menacing shadows, they want out, and with Ryan & Heflin deftly channelling different, yet very flawed, characters, the result is a tough, and at times, fascinating viewing experience. Zinnerman, one can reasonably assume, gave his heart for this one. Having fled Austria to escape the Nazis, his heart would be shattered as his parents would become part of that dark piece of history that encompassed the Holocaust. The grim texture {Surtees again dealing in genius like mood enhancements} of the piece carries an air of realism, a need to cast out some demons in the form of cinema. The ending will cause some consternation to first time viewers: definitely! But personally I think it's closure for the director; and to us the viewers it should (has) make for an interesting conversation piece about noir and the way to finish off one of its dark offspring. As for the cast? Ryan & Heflin are superb, two of the finest character actors from the golden era of Westerns and Noirs. But rest assured that here the girls are also their equal. Leigh gives gravitas to the role of the courageous, loving and fretful wife of Heflin's tortured soul. Thaxter blends common sense with anguished loyalty as the girlfriend of Ryan's malevolent cripple. While Astor almost steals the film from the guys as a brassy woman of the bars and streets who takes Heflin in off the now dangerous avenues and alleyways. Smart, pangy and dripping with noir style, Act Of Violence has so much going for it, and equally as much to say. 8/10