Lots of thrills, chills, spills, twists and turns in this pre-On the Waterfront “expose” of mobbed-up longshoremen.
Marred by a weird “comic relief” last scene that feels tacked on.
In an interview published in 2002, supporting actress Jean Porter told film historian Tom Weaver that Powell directed her exclusively, letting Parrish take full credit. If it was Powell’s intention to help Parrish get a leg up as a director, the tactic worked; Variety praised Parrish’s “strong directorial bow.” That same year, Parrish flew solo with The Mob, a classic “man undercover” drama in the tradition of White Heat (1949) and Reservoir Dogs (1992). Critics were generally enthusiastic. Variety recommended The Mob as “solid corner of the mouth stuff for the leather jacket and bluejeans trade.” The New York Times was less condescending, with Hollywood correspondent Oscar Godbout allowing that the film “makes no attempt to be pretty, and its violence is as exciting and fast-paced as you could ask for…what it offers, precisely, is an hour and a half of physical mayhem, served up hot with pistols and blackjacks.”
The opening ten minutes of The Mob are emblematic of one of the best qualities of the movie business: a film can throw subtle jabs about public attitudes directly at the masses without overtly preaching — camouflaging its message within the entertaining slickness of the medium itself.
By situating Crawford in a pawn shop late at night tells us many things about his role as a police officer: he works terribly long hours (it’s night), in terrible conditions (it’s pouring), he’s underpaid (he frequents pawnshops), and even in his off hours he remains a vigilant public servant (he responds to the gunfire) — yet for all of his risks and sacrifices his grasp on his job and his pension are tenuous at best (he falls for a ruse that would have fooled any of us.)
Furthermore, his masters are quick to make him the scapegoat, a fact he understands so well that he makes no protest.
Finally, they place him in greater danger by wooing him undercover with a carrot of redemption — that he dutifully chases due to an ingrained desire to uphold public order and protect his own place in the world.