The Big Steal (1949)
A Noir Trip
For some reason "The Big Steal" has over the years been called film-noir, maybe technically it is but from my own definition it is more of a light weight crime, road trip drama. I say that because there is plenty of humour going on be it some snappy banter between a man and a woman to the almost slapstick of a pursuer being delayed in comical ways which makes it light weight. But do you know what, defining what genre "The Big Steal" is is not as important than saying it is an entertaining movie which whilst having a storyline is really all about the chemistry between Robert Mitchum and Jane Greer teaming up again, that and the direction of Don Siegel.
Lt. Duke Halliday (Robert Mitchum - The Red Pony) is masquerading as Capt. Blake as he tries to track down Jim Fiske (Patric Knowles) as the real Blake (William Bendix) is after Duke for a crime which Fiske committed. Duke is not the only one after Fiske as his former girlfriend Joan Graham (Jane Greer - Out of the Past) is also after him over $2,000 he stole from her and whether they like it or not Duke and Joan are going to have to work together as they chase Fiske across the Mexican countryside whilst Blake is on their tail.
The storyline to "The Big Steal" is for the most slim at best as for the majority of the movie which at 71 minutes is not very long we have Duke and Joan in their car, trying to avoid Blake in his car whilst catching up to Fiske in his. Whilst all this is going on we discover why Duke is after Fiske and why Blake is after Duke and it all seems very straight forwards. Of course it isn't and right at the end we get a twist, frankly not much of one and maybe a little bit too predictable but at least we have a twist.
But the thing is that whilst "The Big Steal" has a storyline which seems to be played out for laughs as much as thrills with various light hearted moments from comical faces to comical car chases, it feels like the movie was put together just so Mitchum and Greer would be reunited. And that is no complaint because Mitchum and Greer have such brilliant chemistry that watching them bicker and wind each up other is where the movie entertains. You know how it will all end up, it is obvious that these two strangers will end up falling in love but watching them bicker is simply fun.
And in many ways that it, "The Big Steal" is really that simple and light and whilst there are enjoyable supporting performances especially from William Bendix no one steals the light from Mitchum and Greer. Well with the exception of the stunt drivers because whilst all the shots of the actors are done in cars with screens behind them the exterior shots of the car chases with cars narrowly missing animals is actually quite spectacular. It is the only time that "The Big Steal" truly gets exciting.
What this all boils down to is that whilst technically "The Big Steal" may be film-noir for me it is just a light hearted movie which is all about the pairing of Robert Mitchum and Jane Greer and it works.
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