A reformed hood, who turns state evidence to get parole to care for his kids after his wife’s suicide, is a marked man (Fox 1947 Directed by Henry Hathaway 98 mins)
Kiss of Death is usually remembered for the debut performance of Richard Widmark as the giggling psychotic hit-man Tommy Udo and his brutal murder of a hood’s wheelchair-bound mother. But it is a strong performance by Victor Mature as the squealer, Nick Bianco, out to save his family, that holds the film together. An unaffected Coleen Gray is engaging as the love interest Nettie. Brian Donlevy gives his usual straight-up delivery as the Assistant DA who offers Bianco a get out of jail free card.
The action is tautly directed and is set mostly on the actual streets of New York, where the innocent streets of suburbia in the afternoon are a counterpoint to the dark sordid streets of the city at night. The only weakness is a redundant and banal voice-over commentary on the action by Nettie, which is also at odds with the noir theme that redemption costs. The climatic resolution is nicely nuanced and well-paced, as is the claustrophobic tension of the perps sweating out a slow elevator ride down from the 27th floor of an office building after a jewellery heist. The family scenes of Bianco with his daughters and Nettie are beautifully played and deeply moving, without resort to sentimentality.