Thursday, December 18, 2014

Forget Crime, Business Is Where The Real Dirty Money Is

One more movie from the time at my dad's, Larceny, Inc. Edward G. Robinson as "Pressure" Maxwell, a small-time crook who talks big. He's fresh out of prison, and looking to rob a bank before an associate of his, Leo Dexter (Anthony Quinn), gets out. Pressure decides the best bet is to buy a leather goods store next to the bank, and go in the through the basement floor.

As it turns out, this is more complicated than he thinks. His two henchmen are no great shakes. Jug Martin (Broderick Crawford) is adamant they should just use dynamite and blow the wall. Considering how incompetent he is with a pick and shovel, the idea of that guy handling explosives is terrifying. The other, Weepy actually finds being a salesman rather enjoyable. The other shopkeepers on the block are worried the roadwork is killing their businesses. Also, they keep trying to include him in their get-togethers and sense of community. His niece (played by Jane Wyman) is disappointed he's not actually going straight, and is hellbent on making his store a success, whether he wants it to be or not. To that end, she ropes in a salesman for a leather goods making company to keep business booming (a scheme he's only to eager to take part in, since he's trying to woo her).

It's not a laugh out loud movie, but it's good for some chuckles, and watching Pressure gradually start to realize the earning potential of legitimate business is kind of clever, especially since he almost immediately starts thinking big in that direction. His shift in attitude towards the other businesspeople in the neighborhood feels less earned, but even there, the film expends a not inconsiderable amount of time showing the other businesses trying to involve him and befriend him. So we do at least see these people show genuine appreciation for Pressure's assistance, even if he wasn't actually trying to help them. It may just be that Pressure has never really felt looked up to. His niece worries about him, but is as exasperated by him as anything. His goons listen to him, but there's a lot of backtalk, he doesn't really respect them, and well, they are basically morons. Leo doesn't like him, is definitely sick of Pressure's attempts to be a silver-tongued devil. So the very real admiration of these small business owners may have been a new, welcome experience for him. It amuses me to think Pressure will probably be a more successful crook as a businessman than he ever was robbing banks, but I doubt a film would have been permitted to go that route back then.

No comments: