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Brute Force

Despite the fatalism and the hardboiled dialogue, Brute Force is more of a melodrama than the noir I expected, which wouldn’t necessarily be a problem if it were better written. I’m onboard with the film’s dim view of American prisons prioritizing punishment over rehabilitation, which I gather was an uncommon criticism for 1947, but its habit of nakedly editorializing via the monologues of its prison doctor—sometimes looking directly into the camera—make it feel like a congressional floor speech (and an especially ineffectual one at that, given the trajectory of the prison-industrial complex in the decades since). If the sanctimonious doctor weren’t enough, it also has an unbelievably annoying one-man Greek chorus and what must certainly be the whiniest prison warden ever committed to film. It all coalesces into a solidly action-packed finale, but much of the path there is far less gripping.