This one’s a pretty decent, yet wholly underwhelming “wrong man” film in which a drunk Korean War veteran is accused of murdering a young girl. A Crime Against Joe has a pretty drab script, but there’s enough interesting stuff going on to be engaging. There’s a cool high school graduation pin subplot, for example, that leads the protagonist begrudgingly down memory lane to see which of his fellow alumni is framing him for murder. Other than that element and a few other fun aspects, A Crime Against Joe fails to really pack a punch.
Square jawed handsome man John Bromfield stars as Joe Manning, a down on his luck veteran desperately trying to make it as an artist. If only he could stay sober long enough to paint his masterpiece. He lives with his mom, who “thinks he has talent.” Besides subsidizing his “talent,” mom also acts as his enabler. When Joe gets frustrated over painting the “perfect woman,” he grabs a bottle of whiskey from the cabinet and declares to mom, “I’m gonna go get drunk.” Then he hops in his car and drives away. Rather than discouraging his drinking and driving, she only says, “I’ll prepare you father’s favorite hangover cure.”
Besides his empowering mother, Joe’s other pals include a carhop named Slacks (Julie London), Red the cab driver, and a shifty-eyed bartender at the Pango Pango club. He runs into all of them during one helluva black out drunk night out. When Joe comes to the next morning, sporting a hangover that could down a rhino, he learns that one of the girls he attempted to court has wound up dead, with his graduation pin on her. Joe may be the prime suspect, but the cops still don’t have enough to book him. As the evidence continues to stack against him (thanks to a shady politician and his well-to-do buddies), Joe races against the clock to uncover the true killer and clear his name.
Bromfield plays Joe in an effectively sympathetic manner. It’s not easy to make us care for a womanizing drunk, but Bromfield shows enough of his tender side to draw empathy from the audience. The rest of the performances are fairly middlebrow, with the exception of Julie London as Slacks, who brings a confident grit to her character. Director Lee Sholem stages some fun sequences. The highlight is definitely the climactic chase through Joe’s old high school. There’s great use of shadow and geography in this sequence, which culminates in a confession and true sink or swim moment for poor Joe.
While it has its moments, A Crime Against Joe is overall an underwhelming experience. I enjoyed the sentiment at the end, but it was wholly predictable once all the cards were on the table. The film is available right now on Netflix streaming. Check it out if you’re completely out of ideas.