The Big Combo is a nervous, claustrophobic gangster picture directed by the always fascinating Joseph H. Lewis. Cornel Wilde is an honest 90-buck-per-week cop who runs afoul of mob boss Richard Conte. Failing to bribe Wilde into laying off, Conte has the cop beaten up by his thugs. Wilde persists, even daring to pay attention to Conte’s mistress Jean Wallace. Wilde eventually comes by the evidence he needs to bring the law down of Conte’s operation. The best scene in the film — indeed, one of the best sequences in all of film noir — is the murder of mob flunkey Brian Donlevy, whose assassins thoughtfully turn off his hearing aid before administering the fatal shots (the scene is played in utter silence!) The most interesting aspect of The Big Combo is that, while Richard Conte is despicable through and through, he behaves throughout as if he is being victimized, managing to stir up a tiny bit of audience sympathy in the process.
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