Friday, March 9, 2012

The Lineup

This is the last post for noir week. Unless you guys reaaaly want me to extend it. No? Kill it with fire and get back to the popular movies? Ok then. Well like any halfway decent noir, we're ending with a half-hearted whimper, rather than a lovey dovey baby filled explosion, with The Lineup.
I thought I'd get something good from The Lineup, but I was wrong. Dead wrong, he said drunk and pantsless.  The big problem I have with The Lineup is that it is by no means noir. This is noir week, The Lineup, didn't you get the memo?  How are people calling this noir?

The movie starts off with a bang zip zoom when a cabby runs over a police officer and gets shot down. In San Francisco, unsuspecting tourists are smuggling in narcotics without knowing it. Inspectors Al Quine(Emile Meyer) and Fred Asher(Marshal Reed) are getting to the bottom of it while two gangsters are smuggle in the dope. Will the good guys win and the bad guys lose?

Seriously, this is the great question of the movie. That is because this is not a film noir, this is a gangster flick in pretty noir clothing. The overarching question is whether good will triumph over evil, with no ambiguity on either side, and no overarching theme other than "don't do drugs" and "don't buy mysterious antiques from strange chinese men", and "women have squishy parts and don't belong in action movies"(No for realsies, that one is really in there).  Let the record show I only trusted this to be Noir because it was in the batdamn Film Noir Classics collection number the one.

LIES. And not the good kind of lies either!
This is also where I got The Big Heat and 5 Against the House, so I'm wondering just how noiry those other so called 'noirs' really are. Anyways, back to why this is a gangster flick and suffers for it.

Starting off with a bang, there's a mini car chase involving two deaths to set up the rest of the movie. But then everything comes to a grinding halt when we're treated to the Inspectors' investigation.  They're bland emotionless husks with no personality. "Just the facts" kind of guys. Maybe that worked for Dragnet, but here, I forgot what these guys names were and didn't care enough to even try and remember.  You know that boring guy you meet at the party who you instantly block out from all the boring? That's these guys. And we get to see the boring process of them playing police patty cake for about half an hour, until we thankfully meet our two assassins.

I'm rooting for them from the beginning because they have anything remotely resembling a personality. There's Dancer(Eli Wallace), a psycho in training with a short temper, and Julian(Robert Keith), his cool collected teacher. These guys are fun. They've got motivation, character ticks, and I love how they're both strangely interested in people's last dying words. They're cold hearted killers. Which brings me to the first observation of why this is a gangster flick, the good guys are really good, and the bad guys are really bad.
They ARE bad enough dudes to rescue the president, they just don't feel like it.
In noir, everything is a confusing sea of grey. Bad guys can have a heart of gold, and cops can be dirty. That's the whole point of noir, you never know exactly who to root for. Maybe the good guy has a tragic flaw, maybe the ones pulling the strings are hiding behind their plaques of honor, maybe a no-bit floozie saves the day, the end morale here is that there's a little bit of good and bad in all of us. These are supposed to be real people with complicated problems just like us. That's the tragic beauty of noir. They were a direct argument to the gangster flick, because, hey maybe things aren't so cut and dry. Life is tough, man.  And that's what's missing in this movie, the sea of grey.

For a gangster flick, though, it does have a surprisingly big amount of action.  The assassins leave a trail of bodies behind them, there's a great scene where someone takes out the big boss, there's a huuuuuge(for 1950) car chase and shootout at the end, and Dancer even uses a silenced revolver. What's that? What did I say? You want me to say it again but slower? A siiiilenced revoooolver. Yes, that's right, they put a silencer...on a revolver. Why haven't we brought this back? No it doesn't make sense and yes it IS awesome. I don't care what any goody-two-shoes logician says, ALL guns should come with optional silencers.
Why have these not come back into style?
AND ANOTHER THING I very much disliked and that I fully blame for being a gangster flick: it was a total sausagefest. Not one of those small local sausagefests either, the big ones they have at convention centers. Oh you've never been to one of those? Oh neither have I...point is, there's only one major female role, and she's used as the damsel/hostage.  Ok, yes it was a movie made in the 1950's and noir is intrinsically sexist, but still, I expected something. Didn't they know it's international women's day yesterday?

What's worse, one of the assassins basically tells the only woman that noir/gangster films are for men and that there's no place for women because women are soft with girly parts. Yup, that's a thing that happened.  This is another strike for it not being a noir, because women are a huge part of noir. Yes, women are basically treated as objects that merely influence which moral side the man teeters to, but they're still there. And can you really even call it a noir unless you have one femme fatale? It's like this movie was made by that Dr. Pepper guy!
This Noir brought to you by the smooth taste of Dr. Pepper ten! Filled with 23 penises FLAVORS! I said flavors!
The final strike comes at the end with the final car chase and shootout. SPOILER ALERT: Good guys win! Bad guys get dead! Were you surprised?! I was not. That's probably because THIS IS NOT NOIR.  The cut and dry win for the side of good is a huge sign of gangsteritis. Why is that you ask? Because gangster flicks were made popular in the 20's and 30's in which we had just won WWI and we knew the we rocked and the bad guys sucked. It was only after finishing WWII and entering the frightening age of the atom when we realized the world wasn't so cut and dry, and things didn't always turn out for the best. They even had a cute little title card at the end thanking the San Francisco police for their hard work.

You know what the worst thing about this movie is? I don't even know why it was called The Lineup. They used a lineup for two minutes midway through the first act and then never spoke of it again. Wouldn't a more appropriate name be something like Cops and Assassins or The Unknowing Smuggler or This guy uses a freaking silenced revolver watch this freakin movie?

The story had potential. It's a novel idea: criminals are using gullible tourists to smuggle in their narcotics for them. They could have had guy with a criminal past trying to forget his mistakes and lead a nice clean life, but then he gets unknowingly caught up in this smuggling operation just by being a tourist, and the cops are after him because they think he's fallen into his old ways, and the criminals are after him because they want their package, and he's wondering if he should just try to escape and start new all over again or if he should fall back on his criminal ways because he knows how to handle things like that, and there's a dame but he doesn't know if he can trust her and OH MY GOD I WANT TO SEE THAT MOVIE NOW.

I'm using that idea. But oh well.  As it stands, the movie is a pretty good gangster flick, but a piss poor noir movie.

THE GOOD: Assassins have character, cool story idea, lots of action and car chases, guy uses a SILENCED REVOLVER.

THE BAD: Not noir at all, the good guys are excruciatingly boring, there's no womens, cut and dry ending.

THE VERDICT: I can't fault it for being what it's not, but I can for trying to trick me into thinking it is. If you're in the mood for a gangster flick, this one is a maybe. If you're feeling noir, steer clear.

MOVIES LIKE IT: The Roaring twenties, The Racket

ONE-SCENE METAPHOR: The final shootout with the cops and gangsters. You know how it goes. Oh but one thing:


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