Billed as another film noir, this movie is actually a drama that focuses on anti-Semitism but makes a larger argument about hating others because they are different. And it hammers in that message with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer.
The year is 1947, World War 2 is over, and soldiers have returned home but are only slowly getting out of the Army and just aren’t sure what to do with themselves. A handful of enlisted men visit a bar and talk with a Jewish man there, who then has them over for drinks. A couple of hours later, that Jewish man is dead, two soldiers are missing, and one soldier is giving his version of the story. Now a detective of Irish descent must investigate what happened and why, and all blame seems to be pointed at a young soldier named Mitch, a sensitive artist in the Army who misses his wife and doesn’t know what to do with himself now that the Nazis have been defeated.
There is a malaise to this movie, full of enlisted men trying to cover for one another and dealing with their needs, desires, and prejudices in peacetime immediately after a long war in the face of an almost emotionless police force. But it doesn’t take long for the pieces to start falling in place, and with a run time of 86 minutes, the film flies at a brisk pace. It’s a great film during the first half, as both the police and enlisted soldiers try to figure out what is going on while trying to stymie the other. And then the point of the film hits.
And it hits hard.
I don’t know, I guess I just didn’t think the moral of the story literally required a closeup and a five minute scene where it beats in the point over and over again. Anti-Semitism is awful. Hating a group just because it is different is awful. We get it. We know. You don’t have to keep going. Did it really require that sudden extreme closeup for you to once again say that hating Jews is awful? Now it’s referencing the anti-Irish bias in the US during the 1800s. It does not and will not stop, and it makes sure that you hear exactly what it’s saying.
And then the police end up gunning down the real murderer in the streets. He’s unarmed, his back is turned, he’s running away, he’s scared, and the police smash a window and shoot him in the back. What is this, the NYPD? They’re so nonchalant about it, like it’s perfectly fine to just shoot a guy in the street. It’s the only time in the film where we see the cop smile. In fact everybody’s ok with it. Sure, we know he’s the murderer, but it’s not like he confessed, he just ran.
The first half of Crossfire is great. The second half is way blunt with its message and then fouls the whole thing up for me with its sudden ending of happy police brutality. Yeah, it’s a product of its time period, and it was a low budget B-movie with some great star talent. But it goes way overboard in the end. Subtle, this film is not, and you might find yourself groaning for it striking down one problem by using another. That’s rough.
Funny enough, the trailer gets it and runs with it: