They Drive By Night (Walsh, 1940)

This review contains slight spoilers.

They Drive By Night (Raoul Walsh, 1940)

They Drive By Night is a tale of two films that for some reason or another are put into one. What starts as a calm-toned, but harsh-substance tale of two brothers trying to make a living working for themselves, quickly turns into a the story of a psychotic lover’s mental breakdown. George Raft and Humphrey Bogart play the brothers and their relationship is treated with accuracy and care. Bogart’s character stays by his brother’s side as a truck driver despite having a wife at home and much less of a desire to work for himself than his brother. His internal conflict and attitude toward the situation are perfectly portrayed in perhaps the best performance I’ve seen up to this point from Bogart. Unfortunately (or maybe this is what helps make it so strong), his role is supporting, so we are only treated to what I consider the greatest strength of the film on occasion.

The film really starts to fall apart in the second half when the night-time, working class setting and atmosphere are abandoned and Raft’s character settles down, starts working for an old friend, and becomes middle class. His old friend’s wife has a crush on him and will stop at nothing to have him to herself. It’s here the story turns more psychological and plot-heavy, and everything that was great about the first half is abandoned. Heck, by the time it was done, I had almost forgot that the first half was even part of the same movie.  6.25/10


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