The Big Combo (J.H. Lewis, 1955)

The Big Combo (Joseph H. Lewis, 1955)

A woman runs out of the darkness with blonde hair, a white dress, and pale skin. Surrounded by nothing but a circle of darkness, the pounding of her heels echo through the unknown setting. Two henchman quickly track her down and our film begins from there. It’s a brilliant intro matched both in style and quality by the film’s closing scene. These bookends are fabulous (and, of course, fabulously filmed by John Alton), but they are the highlight of a slightly underwhelming overall film. First, the main antagonist is a crucial character in this story. He’s interesting and layered, but absolutely butchered by Richard Conte, whose performance felt like a high schooler rattling off a script instead of becoming the intriguing man he should have been. And this has a trickle down effect on several of the scenes he is in (many of which still manage to be good despite him). Secondly, the film is probably a little to plotty for me in general. But there are several interesting aspects of this film (from the various relationships to the unorthodox execution of events) that a heavy plot is forgivable. Conte’s harm is not as easy to overlook though.  7.5/10

the big combo


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