Friday, December 9, 2011

Larceny, Inc.

If I told you that TCM is showing an Edward G. Robinson comedy tonight, you might be surprised. But that would be because you haven't read this blog carefully enough. In the past, I've recommended Robinson in the somewhat comedic The Whole Town's Talking, and also in the straight-up comedy A Slight Case of Murder. So it shouldn't be a surprise that Robinson did a movie like Larceny, Inc., which is airing tonight at 8:00 PM on TCM.

Robinson plays "Pressure", a career criminal who, along with his partner "Jug" (Broderick Crawford), is just about to get paroled. He needs to have something honest to do in life so that he doesn't wind up back behind bars again, and he's a bit lucky in that he's got a niece Denny (Jane Wyman) looking out for his best interests. She and her boyfriend Jeff (Jack Carson) help Pressure and Jug buy a luggage store when they show an interest in it, and use their business acumen to try to help the business become a success.

Of course, the real reason Pressure and Jug took an interest in the luggage store isn't because they wanted to go straight; it's because the store is located right next to a bank. They figure this gives them the perfect opportunity for another heist: tunnel from the basement storeroom of the luggage shop to the bank next door, and rob the vault from below which, in theory, wouldn't set off the alarm. (The massive evidence of tunneling might be a problem, and I'm not talking about the dirt that they could presumably get rid of in the luggage.) Not that Denny and Jeff quite realize this -- and that causes the first of Pressure and Jug's problems, as they constantly have to deal with honest business that takes time away from their real business.

And then there's a second problem, when fellow criminal Leo (Anthony Quinn) gets out of jail. He's heard of what Pressure and Jug are doing, and wants a piece of the action. Will Pressure and Jug be able to turn good guys and foil Leo, while remaining on the right side of the law?

I've suggested a few times before that I think Edward G. Robinson is a very underrated actor, and Larceny, Inc. is another example of that. True, the movie isn't quite as good as A Slight Case of Murder, and doesn't have any of the biting commentary that The Whole Town's Talking did. I don't think any of that is Robinson's fault; instead, the production feels a bit rushed. Broderick Crawford is fairly good in his typical role of a man with more bluster than brains; Jack Carson once again plays a bit of a schemer, something which he always did well; and Anthony Quinn is enjoyable in one of his earlier roles. Sure, there are better movies out there, but Larceny, Inc. does a fine job of entertaining the viewer -- and that, after all, is one of the main jobs a movie should do.

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