This Gun For Hire-1942

This Gun For Hire-1942

Director-Frank Tuttle

Starring-Veronica Lake, Robert Preston

Scott’s Review #285

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Reviewed November 3, 2015

Grade: B

This Gun for Hire is an early film noir that clearly influenced later films of a similar genre. Starring marque headliners of their day, Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake, this film is a surprisingly violent experience for its time period. Shot in black and white, the film is wonderfully lit, adding style as well as substance to it.

The film begins with a bang…literally, as hit-man Philip Raven (Ladd) murders a chemist and blackmailer in exchange for a hefty sum of loot. His wealthy boss double-crosses him and reports him to the Los Angeles Police department. Detective Michael Crane takes the case aided by his sexy girlfriend and nightclub singer Ellen Graham (Lake). Adding a wrench to the story is the tangled love affair that ensues between Ellen and Raven, who are the films main draw.

I loved the black and white shooting of this film, as many were in 1942, and found this only enhances the tone of the picture given that it is of crime/hit-man variety. The chemistry between Lake and Ladd smolders and Lake is great as a femme fatale with her long blonde locks and sultry pout. In fact, she was the inspiration for the character conceived for L.A. Confidential as Kim Basinger portrays a Veronica Lake look-alike. Ladd is brooding in his intensity as the hit-man with the damaged childhood and ultimately sympathetic personality.

The setting of San Francisco and L.A. is wonderfully perfect and adds depth as the warm and sunny locales are mixed in with murder, corruption, and shenanigans. Who wouldn’t make comparisons to Chinatown??

A flaw I found in the film and in which I found difficult to buy into is the implausibility of Ellen falling in love with Raven as he clearly tries to murder her-unsuccessfully so. This point seems  plot-driven and  a way to incorporate a mainstream love story amid the thrilling film noir. Surely, she would find satisfaction in a romantic sense with her detective boyfriend and since the duo has no conspicuous problems, the love between she and Raven is all the more inexplicable. Still- sparks do indeed fly on-screen.

An action packed crime affair, This Gun for Hire laid a crisp blueprint for film noir and hitmen, action types films for decades to come and I admire it for this reason.

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