The Good Die Young (1954)
The Young and The Desperate
"The Good Die Young" is a pretty decent stab at British film-noir with an interesting storyline of 4 men lead together through different forms of disappointment to try and stage a robbery. The only trouble is that whilst the actual heist element of the movie is good it almost feels like an after thought because the focus of the movie is what leads each of these men into a state of disappointment. And that is where "The Good Die Young" is at it's most entertaining watching how these 4 men end up together and how with their lives crumbling decide to try and rob a Royal Mail van carrying money.
Having retired from boxing Mike (Stanley Baker - The Cruel Sea) is finding life hard, so is Joe (Richard Basehart) who has to put up with a manipulative mother-in-law who will do anything to prevent him and his wife Mary (Joan Collins - The Bitch) from returning to America. Pilot Eddie (John Ireland) is not having a good time either as his actress wife flaunts her affair in front of him and British Gentleman Miles (Laurence Harvey - Darling) is having money difficulties as his wife has grown tired of his gambling and secret liaisons. Having become acquainted in a London pub Miles suggests that robbing a Postal Van of the money it is carrying could solve all their problems.
As "The Good Die Young" begins we enter a car with these 4 men sitting in it, they are edgy because none of them have done a robbery before and when one of them produces 4 guns tempers flare because it is not what the 3 others signed up for. We then get an opening narration before jumping back to the beginning and we follow the events which lead to these 4 men sitting in a car waiting to rob a Royal Mail van.
What this means is that we have 4 stories, we have the story of Mike who after years on the boxing circuit finds life hard especially with a hand injury which he tries to keep hidden. Then there is the story of American Joe who is tired of his mother-in-law manipulating the emotions of his wife and constantly preventing her from returning to America. Next we have Joe who as a pilot is away from home a lot and when he returns finds that his actress wife is carrying on with another man and doesn't even try to hide it from him. And then there is Miles, a bounder who doesn't work but lives a wealthy life style leeching off his wife that is until she has enough and demands he stops. These men's stories end up coming together as they become acquainted in a pub and share their disappointments except for Miles who being manipulative suggests that robbing a Royal Mail van could ease their pain and solve their problems.
Now the majority of the movie focuses on these 4 men and how they get to the point of being disappointed, we see various events which push them further and further into an almost state of depression as things go against them and some of these things are surprising. But eventually we get back to the start and the actual robbery and this is where I have my one real criticism and that is that the actual robbery is dealt with too quickly as if it is unimportant. The good news is that this then moves quickly to what happens directly after as things get messy, police get involved and certain people are not as they seem leading to plenty of memorable drama. But I do wish a little bit more time had been spent on the actual robbery because it does feel that just 4 men with little planning decide to rob a Postal van and then we see the devastating effects of doing so.
But because the focus of "The Good Die Young" is on each man's story it makes it a movie all about the 4 actors and Laurence Harvey, Stanley Baker, John Ireland and Richard Basehart all do fantastic jobs. Each of these men deliver convincing performances of men who find life kicking them in the gut despite being good guys who just want what is right and Stanley Baker as retired boxer Mike really excels delivering what for me is one of his finest performances. Baker is only outshone by Laurence Harvey who turns on the charm as bounder and scoundrel Miles who will do pretty much anything to weasel way out of trouble. Plus as well as these 4 men there are the various women in their lives and it has to be said that whilst only a supporting role a young Joan Collins is not only beautiful as Joe's wife Mary but also very sweet delivering the conflict of loving Joe but dealing with her manipulative mother.
What this all boils down to is that "The Good Die Young" is a very good attempt to deliver British film-noir and the story of these 4 men who are lead to one desperate act is brilliant. Each of the actors delivers brilliant performances and they are aided by equally good performances from the supporting cast. My only criticism is that the actual robbery is a let down but what follows most certainly isn't.
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