Some cops bend the law for money. Some do it to uphold their uptight version of society. Others, like Webb Garwood in The Prowler, do it to achieve their dream of a house in the ‘burbs with a nuclear family. Middle class aspirations that a cop’s salary won’t allow. He could’ve easily fit in with the riffraff he throws behind bars, but as he explains to Evelyn Keyes, the badge just makes it easier to be a bad person, which makes for an easier path to the good life. Joseph Losey’s The Prowler centers around this particularly despicable corrupt cop, as the film takes the formula laid out in Double Indemnity and throws a bit of sand in its eyes to create its own brand of domestic hell.
Post-war disillusionment is often noted as one of the overall themes of film noir. A soldier returns from war to be greeted by a sardonic American society not worth fighting for – that’s a broad example. Austro-American director Fred Zinnemann’s hopelessly grim thriller Act of Violence takes on this disillusionment fist-first, with a tightly-wound reversal of the good guy/bad guy set up that barrels forward to its ill-fated climax. Heightened by six terrific performances, this dark little film offers a bit of redemption at the end, though not without a price.