A Good Gangster Movie With A
Great Edward G. Robinson Performance
- The third variation of the same story (The Mouthpiece in 1932 and The Man Who Talked Too Much in 1940), the 1955 film Illegal follows District Attorney Victor Scott (Edward G. Robinson) from riches to rags, integrity to corruption, and every other way. Mercilessly yet effortlessly prosecuting his latest case, trying Ed Clary for the murder of a woman, Scott wins the jury over with his great talent for oratory and sends Clary to the electric chair.
All seems well - another scumbag put away courtesy of D.A. Victor Scott - justice has been served; you're welcome - but when the real murderer confesses and the innocent Ed Clary is sent to the death chair (which is ridiculous because no one gets killed via the death penalty within 24 of their trial) Scott has a morality attack, quitting his D.A. position and going into private practice as a defense lawyer. Now, Scott finds himself in a very lucrative new position on the other side of the law where he finds himself torn amongst the authorities, his loved ones and the crooked, powerful, and dangerous men who have him in their pockets.
While the overall story for Illegal (1955) is very good and there are a handful of excellent scenes, the particulars of the story are not especially engaging. Some parts are down-right kooky such as Scott being able to try cases when there is a severe conflict of interest on his part, instances of boring melodrama as well as other less significant aspects of the plot.
However, the Victor Scott character and Edward G. Robinson's fantastic performance of that character is what holds the film together and makes it worthwhile. As usual, Edward G. Robinson lights up the screen with a bulldog-like screen presence and his trenchant way of speaking but he also allows the viewer to read the Victor Scott character like a book and root for him even though he is not always doing things that are likable.
Illegal is good film and definitely worth one's time thanks mostly to Edward G. Robinson.
CBC Rating: 7/10