T-Men is one of those semi-documentary films (like Call Northside 777) that brown noses the feds, but viewers expecting an over-staged presentation of federal prowess will be surprised. These “semi-documentary” films are usually not my bag, but this one is seriously dark and downright ruthless in parts. It also never romanticizes the life of a U.S. Treasury agent. It does quite the opposite, in fact. There’s a fair amount of newsreel propaganda and even a “public service announcement” from the Secretary of Treasury acting as prologue, but T-Men feels way more like a brooding underworld noir than stiff government kitsch.
(No not the Arnold Schwarzenegger action flick from the ’80s) Raw Deal is a pretty underrated gem of the classic noir cycle. It was made the same year as T-Men with many of the same principal talents. While that film had a social realism thing going on, Raw Deal goes right for the hypothetical throat. It’s a tale of betrayal amongst a group of crooks and the two women who strive for the love of Joe (Dennis O’Keefe). On the surface it reads like a standard revenge story, but thanks to director Anthony Mann and DP John Alton, Raw Deal plunges into a hallucinatory realm of violence and cynicism that’s as disenchanted as the hardest noirs oughta be.