For all film noir fans, the 1951 film 'The Racket' is a surefire must have.
Starring two of Hollywood's great actors in opposing roles, Robert Mitchum as Police Captain Tom McQuigg, a good, honest cop, moved from Precinct to Precinct because he is straight and 'won't look the other way' when foul deeds are perpetrated, he is opposed by Robert Ryan as Nick Scanlon, a ruthless mobster with a poisonous network of doers, who 'run errands,' at his behest.
The plot starts with the Senate Crime Committee, which has met and decided that their city needs cleaning up of corrupt officials and organised criminal rackets that threaten to move in. The city's Chief Prosecutor bravely asserts he will act with hard evidence, which will be not easy to get hold of.
Set into this inferno of sleaze, is Captain Tom McQuigg, an honest and ruthless Police Detective, who is not afraid to kick in doors, even if that door belongs to Nick Scanlon - and he does kick in Scanlon's door. McQuigg cannot be bought off or warned off - it takes very direct, personal action against his home for Mc Quigg to know that Scanlon has fallen for the bait.
When ambitious Police Officer Johnson lifts Scanlon's brother for autocrime, Nick is in a cleft stick - whether to bail out his brother who wants to marry a showgirl, despite Nick paying for fancy college education for his brother, or let justice be done. With the ever present Scanlon lackey Davis producing writs on Scanlon's behalf at the drop of a hat, it looks like McQuigg is going to have a difficult job keeping anyone behind bars or out of circulation.
When whispers of doubts about Scanlon's abilities reach his ears, Scanlon pushes harder and risks bringing his whole operation and that of 'The Chief' - an unseen but all powerful leader crashing down in ruins. Scanlon becomes paranoid everyone is out to get him in some way and it is a brilliant piece of acting by Robert Ryan as Scanlon starts to come unstitched.
All the while, McQuigg is forcing the pace and doing anything he reasonably can to up the stakes and make Scanlon react. This culminates in Scanlon shooting Johnson, the cop, an action that will ultimately undo him.
But there is a dramatic twist in the tail, A Police Detective called Turk (played by a younger but even then suitably rotund William Conrad), makes a final gesture which solves the Scanlon problem, however not before the clever and calculating McQuigg has forced Nick Scanlon's hand and uncovered who 'belongs' to the shady Acme Real Estate company a front enterprise run by organised crime and whose staff members comprise many 'comprimised' officials in local government and legal walks of life.
A brilliant film which is pacy and hard hitting, Robert Mitchum is excellent as the incorruptable McQuigg, Robert Ryan also excellent as the 'nasty' Nick Scanlon - once you have seen this film you will appreciate this as a first class example of the genre - the strong storyline, the great story and screenplay, the great script and a great treatise of the hard boiled, noiresque organised crime film genre, probably one of the best ever put on film.
If you are thinking of writing in this genre, I recommend you watch and learn from the masters here!
Of interest, Robert Ryan starred in the 'Flying Leathernecks' film about US Marine pilots in WW2 Pacific fighter operations the same year, another film I recommend.
Very rarely can you go wrong with a film with Robert Mitchum or Robert Ryan in!