Sunday, August 22, 2010

thriller by the code

Jules Dassin's Brute Force is a fine entry in the noir canon and a shockingly brutal film, especially considering that it was released in 1947. The violence is especially unsettling thanks to what the production code let you show and what it didn't. The brutality is in full bloom during the climax, which also perhaps underscores the influence of the real Battle of Alcatraz more than anything else in the film. Each principal prisoner represents an archetype with a heart large enough to make you ignore the crime he is in for. In addition to being a bitter melodrama, the film also includes references to Nazi war camps: Hume Cronyn's character and performance are perhaps the most explicit hints of this. The Criterion DVD release, as with every release under the label, does justice to the film by presenting an excellent transfer and excellent special features to help you understand the context the film was made in and how it has survived over the years to become an important one. [May 31, 2009]

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