FBI agent Mark Stevens goes undercover to infiltrate the mob in that cesspool of crime, Center City, USA. In the boxing ring, he attracts the attention, slightly open to inference, of boss Richard Widmark, a dapper (“I like my boys to look sharp”) cutthroat with a morbid fear of drafts and sneezes. With the aid of confederate John McIntyre, Stevens reports the gang’s plans back to the FBI. Alas, a high-placed informant in the police department reports the FBI’s plans back to Widmark.
So the movie boils down to the agent-in-peril story. Keighley tells it cleanly and briskly, eschewing the complexities (both visual and moral) of Anthony Mann’s T-Men, released just a few months earlier. It’s strongest in the feel for Center City’s raffish tenderloin, with its fleabag hotels, pool halls and walk-up gyms. Stevens, McIntyre and Lloyd Nolan (as Stevens’ superior) give workmanlike jobs with the rather staid roles scriptwriter Harry Kleiner supplies. His few-frills approach reins in Widmark, too, who’s always better when he’s unfettered and shooting over the top.
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