A Cold Knife in the Back
Whilst he had done time inside Joe Rolfe (John Payne) is keeping his nose clean as a delivery driver for a florists. But Joe finds himself accused of being involved in an armoured car robbery as the gang used an identical delivery van to his. After being worked over by the cops, who are convinced he is involved, he is allowed to go and sets out to clear his name. But the man behind the robbery knew exactly what he is doing, keeping his team of robbers completely anonymous to each other and it is going to take some work and more than one dice with danger if Joe is going to clear his name.
I am going to lay this one out there and say that director Phil Karlson nearly spoils "Kansas City Confidential". I know not many agree but Karlson really goes to town on creating stylish scenes especially during the set up such as an early scene where a character played by Jack Elam gets a call and he is clearly on edge. But it really does skirt the limits of being stylish and becoming overkill, distracting from the story due to the director's strong visual ideas.
But when you get beyond the movie's abundant styling there is this wonderful crime story which sees Joe not only worked over by cops as they try to break the case but also heading down to Mexico where first he frequents smoke filled illegal gambling houses and then to a holiday resort. But the trouble with all this is that I can't tell you a single detail as letting slip one plot point spoils "Kansas City Confidential" although I suppose I can say that Joe meets a nice woman whilst he is trying to find out who set him up. Okay I can also say there is action, revelations and some mystery, especially when it comes to how this is going to end but it is more than just those usual things which make this movie.
What is for certain is that John Payne delivers one of his best performances in "Kansas City Confidential" and I say this because he muddies the waters perfectly. When we meet Joe he is a good guy, then we see him getting roughed up and going after who ever set him up. But then we begin to wonder what he wants out of this; is it revenge or is it his share of the money which he thinks he is entitled to for being set-up. As such whilst alongside Payne you have Neville Brand, Lee Van Cleef and Jack Elam all making an impact with their characters, as does Dona Drake in a supporting role, it is John Payne who makes the movie.
What this all boils down to is that "Kansas City Confidential" is still a brilliant thriller which is certainly stylish but it also has a good storyline and good performances which makes it one of those movies which when you start watching you can't stop.