Movie #8 is in the books, putting me 1/4 of the way through noir month.
First, we had The Big Sleep, something that sounds pretty nice to an insomniac like me… unless you’re talking about death. Now, we have The Big Heat, which is the sort of thing most of the country completely understands right now with this remarkable heat wave everyone has been experiencing over the last few weeks if they don’t live on the west coast.
In The Big Heat, a corrupt cop kills himself, leaving a long letter to the DA behind. His wife finds the body and the letter, then puts in a call to a crime boss before calling the police, hiding the letter from the investigating officer. The cop put on the case is an honorable, honest cop who gets pulled deeper into the story until it hits too close to home, after which he winds up on a mission to single-handedly take down a city-wide crime syndicate.
To begin with, you need to be able to look past one ridiculous plot hole: Why would the corrupt police force put one of the few intractable, honest cops on this case? If the cops are in the crime syndicate’s pocket, then they would have made sure one of their own guys ushered the case quickly out of view. Instead, someone decides that the only cop who might create problems on the case is the guy who gets the case.
Yet, beyond that, film style pioneer Fritz Lang takes control, the story gets moving, and it makes for another enjoyable noir film. There are several winning moments with a lot of heart, especially in the movie’s final third. A major highlight is Gloria Grahame as a villain’s girlfriend, who figures heavily into most of the plot’s most important events.
One interesting note I found about this film, but didn’t realize while watching it, was that the film subverts the femme fatale theme. This film, instead of having a deadly female character who consciously or otherwise brings nothing but death and destruction to a male protagonist, has a male protagonist who unwittingly causes destruction for all of the women he encounters.