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A Bullet for Joey

Though it's never apparent in his performance in 1955's A Bullet for Joey, Edward G. Robinson spent most of the 1950s in trouble. He was battling with — and eventually kowtowing to — the House on Un-American Activities Committee, which shattered his film work. Just being suspected of having communist sympathies was enough to wash out a great, and Hollywood was still frightened of the power of McCarthyism — on top of that, his wife wanted a divorce, which led to a very nasty settlement that forced Robinson to sell off much of his prized art collection. Since the film isn't good, perhaps A Bullet For Joey was an attempt to take advantage of Robinson's fallen star. And with George Raft as his co-star and Canada as the setting, it could have also been done as a favor to get him back on the big screen. Raft stars as Joe Victor, an expatriate, ex-mafia boss sent abroad by the FBI for his nefarious criminal activities. He's recruited by some commies to return to North America to steal a man, that being atomic scientist Dr. Carl Macklin (George Dolenz). Victor's plan is to use his old moll Joyce Geary (Audrey Totter) as bait, figuring honey works better than vinegar. But the commies and his old gang aren't that adept at not killing people, and so the heat is on in the form of Inspector Raoul Leduc (Robinson). Films often use reverse engineering when their conclusion is (more often than not) dictated by the star in the role, and that sort of tinkering is apparent in A Bullet for Joey when Raft's men commit the crimes while Raft himself remains with his hands mostly clean, which ruins his third-act redemption. If he was actually dirty, then his turnabout would mean something, but because he's removed from the bad business it's all too evident that Raft was sick of playing the heavy. Then again, this rote thriller offers little involving its two leads that is of any surprise. Helmed by Lewis Allen, who spent most of his career directing television, it has a very formulaic and bored layout, and every time the movie momentarily springs to life it falls back on clichés. There's a fairly interesting sequence when one of Raft's men romances a secretary to get information out of her, but when he's busted, she spells everything out in capital letters. Nonetheless, if A Bullet for Joey helped keep Robinson afloat during his troubled years, then much can be forgiven. MGM/Fox presents the title on DVD in full screen (1.33:1 OAR) with monaural DD 2.0 audio. No extras, keep-case.

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