Film Noir 2024
New Restoration

Extraordinary … Blunt and purposeful … The 20-minute Nighttown passage is among the most mordantly gripping, gorgeously composed episodes in all of film noir.”

Paul Arthur, Film Comment

WWII shadows the entire noir cycle, but it rarely receives as thorough an exorcism as it does in Act of Violence, the sole entry in the genre by director Fred Zinnemann (From Here to Eternity). Van Heflin plays Frank Enley, a successful contractor who’s helped to build a suburban dream for his wife Edith (Janet Leigh) and their neighbours. Into this protective shell breaks Joe Parkson (Robert Ryan), a vet with a different telling of what Frank was up to during the war, and a mission to make him pay for it. Zinnemann amplifies this murky conflict through horror-inflected setpieces, in which Joe stalks the neighbourhood like a bogeyman, his unhealed injury marking him as both a wild physical threat and a symbolic return of the repressed. There are no heroes here, only different branches of dirty business. Mary Astor gives a memorable supporting performance. Robert Surtees (The Bad and the Beautiful) composes the haunting images.

Fred Zinnemann’s best film, in that noir unease forces a tremor into the craftsman’s decorum.”

Fernando F. Croce, Cinepassion

Zinnemann went on to make grander films than Act of Violence, but few of them are as absorbing as this ruggedly realistic film noir.”

Gene D. Phillips, Out of the Shadows
Media

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