dir. Lewis Allen
Montreal: bargain city of light; city of we can't afford Europe so we'll—wait, there was a noir that took place in discount France? Yep, Red-baiting A Bullet for Joey, posits a world in which this city acts as the battle-ground for the future of liberty. All roads leading either to the destruction or triumph of democracy begin in Canada?
George Raft stars as Joe Victor, the sensitive teacher of a school for blind orphans. This timid fellow develops a crush on coworker Sheryl, who— I'm sorry, I couldn't keep saying that with a straight face. No, Raft is a two-bit hood in this picture; he kills people for money. And because of his crime cred, he gets roped into helping the Reds treat lady Liberty to a little chin music. Not that he is aware of their intentions. He simply gets asked to ensnare Canada's leading nuclear scientist—which, how pointless: whatever best they got is only ever gonna be, at best, second best (wow, why am I so mean to Canada today?)—and Joe says yes. Gee, what could a shadowy organization, taking orders from a mysterious leader, want with a nuclear scientist?
It is only when crusading investigator Raoul Leduc (Edward G. Robinson) gets kidnapped by the organization that Joe is alerted to the Reds' true intentions. By the way, this movie should be called, Don't Listen to Robinson When He Asks You to Do Something, Because You'll Get Your Ass Goddamn Killed. Not only does Joe get his ass killed after agreeing to help Raoul, but Raoul's partner also gets his ass done in, when Raoul asks him to stall the baddies. I think there's a much more interesting story buried in this picture, one that could be elaborated on in a sequel of sorts...or a piece of erotic fan fiction
Nowhere near the top of my film Noir pantheon, nor Red-baiting pantheon, A Bullet for Joey nevertheless has much to recommend it, not least of which is the snappy dialogue. When Joe barges in unannounced on his moll/shill used to lure the atomic scientist, Joyce Geary (Audrey Totter), she gruffly asks, “Your knuckles sore?”
“Then go out and bang them on the door.”
And speaking of the Joyce, I love the way this film contrasts her with supposed ugly duckling Yvonne Temblay (Toni Gerry). A Bullet for Joey traffics in the age-old trope of hiring hot actresses to play unattractive folks. As is always the case, they simply dowdy Yvonne up, the traditional Hollywood way—glasses + hair in bun = unfuckable. The supposed bombshell Joyce, on the other hand, has the sort of weathered visage indicative of a person who spent her best years addicted to booze, smokes, and regret.
All in all, an entertaining little hangover picture. No, I ain't gonna sing it's praises to the mountaintops, but A Bullet for Joey is a not bad way to spend an hour and a half.