Case Against Brooklyn, The (1958)

“When the law is suspended for a price, and truth and justice can be peddled on the marketplace, then every citizen’s in danger — and the law belongs to the highest bidder!”

Synopsis:
A rookie cop (Darren McGavin) in Brooklyn goes undercover to expose rampant corruption in the police force — but the well-being of both his wife (Peggy McCay) and partner (Brian Hutton) are put in jeopardy when he actively pursues a widow (Margaret Hayes) who may have information to share.

Genres:

Review:
This early precursor to 1990’s Internal Affairs tells the gritty, true-to-life tale of rampant police corruption in 1950s Brooklyn, and the neophyte cops who were sent undercover to secure incriminating evidence against their degenerate elders. Darren McGavin is perfectly cast as a young war veteran who is immediately comfortable with the deception required of his new job: although he’s clearly the film’s protagonist, he’s ultimately a flawed hero, someone we can’t help silently despising as he lunges a bit too whole-heartedly into an affair with a likable widow (Hayes) while his loyal wife (McCay) waits naively at home. As a narrative, The Case Against Brooklyn is flawed by its overly perfunctory exposition and didactic narration (similar to that in Anthony Mann’s T-Men); but once McGavin enters the story and the voice-over mysteriously disappears, the story unfolds with tension and excitement until its bittersweet ending.

P.S. McGavin is one of the more unexpectedly athletic actors I’ve seen in a while — watch how he leaps, then rolls across his bed to answer his ringing telephone, or how competently he (nearly) takes out two bookie thugs sent to collect money from him.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Darren McGavin as Pete Harris
    Case Brooklyn McGavin
  • Margaret Hayes as Lil Polombo
    Case Brooklyn Hayes
  • Many exciting, tension-filled sequences
    Case Brooklyn Action

Must See?
No, but it’s certainly worth a look if you can find a copy.

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One Response to “Case Against Brooklyn, The (1958)”

  1. First viewing. Not a must, but (agreed) worth a look (that is, not a waste of time).

    Low-budget and largely filmed like a ’50s tv drama, with the occasional extra effort w/ effective lighting, ‘Case’ is mostly compelling thanks to Darren McGavin’s no-holds-barred performance. It’s almost as if the story takes a back seat to the protagonist’s ambition – as he says to his wife, “I gotta make it. Don’t you understand?”

    Although it’s hardly admirable that he’s willing to make love to another woman to get info in spite of being happily married, that aspect is daring in a film of this period.

    Interesting as well is the fact that, in the last 15 min. of the picture (by far, the best), McGavin seems to suddenly turn into Ralph Meeker in ‘Kiss Me Deadly’.

    And I love it when straight guys talk like this in movies:

    Goon: You’re makin’ a big mistake, buddy.
    McGavin: Get over there. Up against the cabinet. C’mon, move!
    Goon: …You’re kinda cute, though.

    There’s some welcome, lively dialogue throughout.

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