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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 22 August 2011
Cornered is directed by Edward Dmytryk and adapted to screenplay by John Paxton from a story by John Wexley. It stars Dick Powell, Walter Slezak and Micheline Cheirel. Music is by Roy Webb and cinematography by Harry J. Wild.

Story is set at the end of World War II and finds Powell as demobbed Canadian flier Laurence Gerard who returns to France to discover who ordered the killing of a group of French Resistance fighters, one of which was his new bride. Learning from his father-in-law that it was a Vichy collaborator named Marcel Jarnac, Gerard refuses to believe the rumour that Jarnac is dead and sets off on a trail that will lead him to Argentina where it soon becomes evident that Fascism is alive and well.

From the off Powell's intense miserablist Laurence Gerard sets the tone for Dmytryk's no-nonsense picture. Mood is set at revenge bleak and spills over into a humourless detective picture with huge anti-fascist leanings. As Gerard snakes his way from France to Argentina, via Switzerland, and heavy with a black heart, he encounters a myriad of shifty characters and traverses what would become a roll call of film noir locations such as dark streets, alleys and low lighted rooms. Wedge in some murder and grim violence and Cornered clearly isn't a film for those in need of a pick me up! It's also a twisty narrative, a plot that demands the utmost attention to follow what is going on. But that attention is rewarded with a spiky script that lets the number of characters really come to life, especially Gerard, who reels off a number of cutting remarks befitting his gait. Dmytryk (Farewell My Lovely/Crossfire) and Wild (Pitfall/The Big Steal) shoot it mostly as night time set-ups, thus enforcing the murky atmosphere, and Webb's musical accompaniment carries with it a ticking time bomb effect.

Powell (also Farewell My Lovely/Pitfall) and Slezak (Lifeboat/Born To Kill) shine in a cast list of mostly unknowns or stock character actors. The former broods convincingly, the latter is the epitome of sweaty untrust. But there are some fine performances in the support slots, notably from Nina Vale as slinky femme fatale in waiting, Señora Camargo, of whom little is known since her film career numbers only three. While Luther Adler (D.O.A./Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye), in the early throes of his career, menacingly strolls into the picture for the last quarter. Good stuff and recommended with confidence to film fans who enjoy some grit and blackness in their viewing diets. 8/10
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A very unfestive Christmas Day release in 1945, Edward Dmytryk's Cornered may be the first Nazi-hunting thriller, with Dick Powell's traumatised war veteran obsessively tracking down the French collaborator who murdered his French wife to Buenos Aires with all the subtlety of a bull in a China shop, more hindered than helped by Walter Slezak's duplicitous `professional guide' and Micheline Cheirel's femme-not-so-fatal who may be a bad girl acting good or a good girl mistaken for a bad one along the way. Like the later Key Largo, it's one of those films that makes the case for ongoing vigilance rather than complacency at the war's end, which rather backfired on Dmytryk when he briefly found himself in jail as one of the Hollywood Ten. As such it's very much of its time, but in Powell it has an intriguingly flawed hero who isn't quite the tarnished knight errant his Philip Marlowe was nor the doomed victim of circumstance of the average noir, but someone who doesn't care how much damage he does to the good guys as well as the bad guys as long as he gets his revenge. He doesn't even learn his lesson, overstepping the mark in the final scene so much that things resolve themselves more by accident than design. It's not top-notch noir by any means, but there's plenty to keep things interesting, from a scene in a railway station where plot revelations are constantly interrupted by the roar of passing trains that bring on Powell's migraines to an almost literally faceless villain with a penchant for faking his own death who sneers from the shadows at Powell's `empty' fanaticism for revenge: "What kind of a political programme is that?"
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on 15 March 2015
"You are a very reckless man" Mr Gerard. "You've made a great many mistakes since coming to Buenos Aires." That would be the understatement of the century as Laurence Gerard (Dick Powell), a Canadian pilot scarred both mentally and physically, a man who doesn't like talk, goes blundering his way down Argentine-way like a bull in a china shop. Gerard wants to find the French collaborator responsible for his wife's execution, a mysterious figure named Marcel Jarnac (Luther Adler, credited at the end). Convinced Jarnac has faked his own death, he foolishly attempts to penetrate an Argentine high society riddled with Nazis and collaborators. Whilst there, he accidentally comes into contact with another mysterious group (from the sound of them, anti-fascist lawyers) who are aiming for a Hague-type judicial process rather than the summary execution Gerard desires. Despite these supposed allies, Gerard's paranoid, single-minded, one-man mission continues and he'll carry on threatening, cajoling and terrifying everything and everyone in his way until he finds his man. Here, Powell finally sheds his reputation as a Broadway hoofer and becomes a hard-boiled, Noirish anti-hero. Powell is terrific in this, whether he's spitting out the dialogue, "men who pack suitcases make me nervous" or pointing his luger at people with menaces, he doesn't seem to understand that things aren't quite as simple as he believes them to be. Following this new path, Powell would make a few more Film-Noirs (Johnny O'Clock) and a couple of Noir-Westerns (Station West) before becoming a 50's director of some note. RKO, Powell, director Edward Dmytryk and writer John Paxton combine magnificently again like they did a year earlier for Chandler's, Farewell My Lovely (aka, 'Murder My Sweet'). Directed by Canadian/Ukrainian Dmytryk and produced by Adrian Scott (2 of the Hollywood 10), it also features two other victims of The Hollywood Blacklist, Morris Carnovsky and Luther Adler. Given the leftist bent of the makers, there is the occasional, preachy dialogue with lots of foreboding for the future but on the whole, the writing is immediate and minimal. Worth watching for it's excellent direction, it's stark dialogue and the great performances from the cast especially Powell and Walter Slezak as greasy tourist guide Incza. How interesting too that, even in 1945, the writers were well aware of the Nazi rat-lines to South America.
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on 21 July 2016
A lively wise-cracking post-war-espio-noir with a sub-Bogartian (i.e. not so certain about things) characterisation from a now slightly grizzled post-hoofing Dick Powell. Lots of formula twists and dark passages in downtown (not particularly convincing) Buenos Aires to which all the Nazi rats have now deserted. They clearly knew that in 1945; and it was a part of the world to which, a few of them apart, the corruption and the blind eyes of the west and east, allowed many of them to remain.
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on 29 November 2012
Not a great film but Dick Powell was always good value for money. Its just the film is a bit too stagey and the villain not prominent enough until near the end.
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on 1 June 2013
Dick Powell was known for his musical talent but he was also an excellent straight actor. If you like film noir movies then you will enjoy this.
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on 11 December 2014
bought as a present.
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on 6 August 2015
Avery good film.
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