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One of the niftiest "B" gangster films of the "noir" era tells the story of ex-con Vincent Lubeck (a solid performance by Reservoir Dogs' Lawrence Tierney) on parole because of the pleadings of his mother, with orders to stay clean for five years. Working for his brother at a gas station, Lawrence looks for an easy way to make money. He calls in some of his old associates and they rob an armored car where several people are killed. Edward Tierney (real-life brother of Lawrence) makes his screen debut delivering a promising performance, and the rest of the cast offer excellent performances in this tough, fast-paced dramatic film from the director of Dillinger, based on actual news accounts of the plight of many ex-cons.
From the Contributor
Starring: Gregory Harrison, Glynnis O'Connor, Justin Lord --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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The plot is familiar. Vincent Lubeck is a career criminal, and definitely the "black sheep" of his family. Because of Vincent's numerous crimes, and prison sentences, we are told that his father "died of a broken heart". His mother is in a constant state of worry, and his younger brother, Johnny, holds him in contempt. He is paroled from prison because of his mother's pleadings, but Vincent has no real interest in "going straight", even though his brother gives him a job at his gas station. Contacting some of his old cronies, Vincent plans and carries out a bank heist--a heist that results in several fatalities. A showdown with the police seems inevitable--but perhaps there are "family issues" to be settled first.
Lawrence Tierney is terrific as Vincent. This man is a thug, a thief, a liar, a rapist and a killer--a soulless, remorseless excuse for a human being. Mr. Tierney is totally convincing in this role, although in films like "Dillinger" and "Born To Kill", you could say that he had plenty of practice ! Other screen "tough guys" of the forties and fifties are still remembered today--Alan Ladd, Dan Duryea and, of course, Cagney and Bogart--except with genre fans, Lawrence Tierney seems to be forgotten, which is a shame. Certainly, in this type of role, the man had real presence.
Lawrence Tierney's brother, Edward, plays Johnny Lubeck--an interesting piece of casting, although his performance is no more than adequate. Lisa Golm, as Lubeck's mother, has several strong scenes--her final one with the "son from Hell" is a pip !
Again, the black and white, full-screen picture has much "wear and tear", even a few scene jumps, clearly taken from an old, flawed print. I suppose it beats having no film at all. Don't look for extras.
If you can overlook the technical quality, "The Hoodlum" is a very diverting, if somewhat bleak, hour's entertainment. For this viewer at least, Mr. Tierney is worth the "price of admission".
The variation is in the quality of the production and the fame and ability of the cast, cinematographer, screenwriter, and director. "Classic" film noir examples (such as "Maltese Falcon," "The Big Sleep," "Double Indemnity," "The Killing") display excellence in all or most of these areas, and are deservedly famous.
However, there is another type of film noir, the B (or B grade) film, obviously made on a budget, and typically hugely deficient in one or more of the above areas. There may be name actors and actresses (although sometimes they're here because of contractual obligations or a flagging career), but they don't have uniformly high quality, and there's often a dirtier, sleazier feeling that a cheaper, less sanitized film can get away with. "The Hoodlum" is one of these B films noirs, and within its often implausible plot and sometimes ridiculous characters, it delivers a raw power that today would be described as "edgy."
Lawrence Tierney embodies the power of the best B noirs, as just-released convict Vincent Lubeck, he's an unpretty, unsentimental, snarling, brutal man with no redemptive features (save for his very last-minute remorse during the tense but predictable ending). He's riveting as the single-minded psychopath, and the lousy feeling of the sets and clothes make him even more credible. (Even the current promotion of the DVD--perhaps taken from original promotional material--is sleaze, the scene depicted on the cover never takes place.)
The B noir is also very forgiving, given the right expectations, one can laugh at the production quality, the less convincing aspects of the plot, and the maudlin or otherwise unconvincing acting. This plot's a doozy, the brooding Lubeck and fellow ex-cons rob a bank across the street from where Vince works at his brother's gas station. Even though parole agents visit him there, they fail to make a connection, nor take notice of Lubeck's outings with a bank employee. I enjoyed, however, the sorry gang that Lubeck gathers, the immigrant mother who believes in Vincent (she successfully falls upon the mercy of the parole board, who do an about-face after her tearful plea... 'He's a good boy!'), the brother's beautiful and idealistic fiancee, and the ambitious bank employee whose lust is the only explanation for her attraction to Lubeck.
Tierney's compelling and completely natural "hoodlum" seems years ahead of its time, and he's the reason this is a tawdry, rough-cut gem. If you can accept the movie's sometimes cliched, low aspirations, and especially if you're either a film or noir afficionado, you'll enjoy it.
The film begins with two men in a car driving somewhere in the night. We hear about Vincent Lubeck's crimes. He will be paroled after his mother meets the parole board. The warden warns Vincent. His brother Johnny owns a gas station. [Does Vincent have a good attitude?] Vincent can't keep his mind on his work. Should Johnny help his brother? Rosa thinks she can help Vincent. [Can anyone?] "What did it accomplish?" Eileen drives a Rambler. Vincent has plans for a Big Score with other crooks. Rosa Chermak has a problem, there will be an autopsy. A funeral car doesn't have to stop for lights. Vince gets an idea. His gang scouts the bank. Will the plan work?
They rob the armored car and shoot the guards. They leave the cab and transfer to the hearse for a funeral. The police will blockade the roads in the city and shoot to kill. But funeral cars are allowed to pass. The lieutenant questions the mortuary owner and notices a discrepancy. There is a squabble over sharing the loot. Is there honor and trust among thieves? The police catch the rest of the gang. What will Vincent do? Can he escape? "Its too late." His mother speaks to him. Is she heart-broken? Johnny speaks to him and commands obedience. The police arrive to end the story.
This is a very good story for a low-budget production. The Lubeck family didn't know when it was time to cut their losses.
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