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Force of Evil Reviews

Garfield is Joe Morse, a slick, self-centered lawyer who knows the law but feels he's above it. He practices on Wall Street and has his eyes on millions, working on retainer for racketeer Ben Tucker (Roberts). The policy czar plans to have the number 776 come up on July 4; knowing that most people will bet on it, Tucker hopes to bankrupt and take over most of the city's smaller numbers operations. Without spilling the beans, Joe attempts to get his kindly brother Leo (Gomez) to shut down for one day, but the stubborn older man feels obligated to let his regulars take their holiday chances. Joe arranges for a police raid to break his brother's spirit, but to no avail. After Tucker achieves his expected success on the Fourth, Leo's people, including bookkeeper Doris (Pearson), become nervous about the gangsters suddenly in their midst. Dark and brooding, FORCE OF EVIL offers one of Garfield's greatest performances as the cynical, hard-as-nails lawyer. Pearson, in her first of only two films, doesn't really register in a role that could use Shelley Winters or Ida Lupino rather than a June Allyson clone. Her presence is more than offset, however, by Gomez's marvelous performance and that of the suitably slimy Roberts. A tour de force for gifted writer Polonsky, FORCE was the only film he directed before he was blacklisted for being an uncooperative witness before HUAC in 1951; he didn't direct another feature for 21 years. At its best, FORCE achieves a style at once brutal and poetic, documentarian and noir.