Underworld U.S.A. (Samuel Fuller, 1961)

For much of this, Cliff Robertson’s Tolly is a lot like Lee Marvin’s Walker in “Point Blank,” never actually killing anyone, yet still causing the deaths of many men who’ve wronged him, the men who beat up and killed his father years before and have now risen to the top of the criminal underworld, making Tolly’s job of seeking revenge that much more difficult. Walker just wanted his 93 grand back, while Tolly wants to avenge his beloved father, so while Walker has this kind of ultra-cool aloofness as he stumbles his way through that criminal organization to avenge himself, Tolly tastes blood, and puts in a specific plan, not to kill these men himself, but to ingratiate himself with both the underworld and the law and then turn all sides against each other Red Harvest/Yojimbo-style, defying his outward appearance of a determined yet dumb hood with a rather ingenious plan where everything has to go right. As a result, Fuller’s film comes damn close to full-on glorifying the concept of revenge, as Tolly truly seems to live a charmed life as he implements his plan, as nothing goes wrong, and the girl/witness he rescues even falls for him despite his treating her like trash, and to this I objected while nevertheless having fun with what I was watching. But then, by the end, Tolly crosses the point of no return, learns that crime never pays, and all is right again with the world. But this is Samuel Fuller’s world, of tough-talking criminals, cigarette smoke, a fashionably scarred anti-protagonist, over-the-top jazzy musical scores, little girls getting run over to send a message to a potential witness, a corrupt police chief eating his gun in his own office in the middle of the day, and the drunk love interest looking right into the camera as she rants and rambles, so who the hell knows what’s right and what’s wrong in this world.


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