Odds Against Tomorrow [1959]

After seeing Odds Against Tomorrow, it's hard to understand why Harry Belafonte made so few movies. He's superb as Johnny Ingram, a nightclub singer with a bad gambling debt. To pay it off, he agrees to take part in a bank heist with an ex-cop (the great character actor Ed Begley) and a racist ex-con named Earl Slater, played with consummate bitterness by Robert Ryan. But this isn't a standard crime caper--the movie carefully explores the pressures each man is under. Ingram's debts have begun to threaten his ex-wife and child, while Slater's pride has been eaten away by age and failure; Slater finally has a relationship that matters to him (with Shelley Winters, in one of her wonderful, desperate performances), but not as much as proving himself. As the plan slowly falls into place, the tensions between the men get more extreme until everything falls apart. Gloria Grahame, one of the great B movie femme fatales, has a small but memorable role. Director Robert Wise's long and wildly varied career includes The Haunting, The Sound of Music, and Star Trek: The Motion Picture, but Odds Against Tomorrow is one of his best. This bleak, powerful movie is considered by many critics and film historians to be the last true film noir, and it's a fitting close to the genre. --Bret Fetzer

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