If you're in a film noir and you think you're going to turn your life around, you're wrong. But of course, noir heroes don't usually know any better and Burt Lancaster seems to know even less than most in 1949's Criss Cross. It's the usual story of a guy who's lived bad coming back to town after cleaning up his act, the old haunts inevitably pulling him back down again, the custodians of his familiar hell being in this case Yvonne De Carlo and Dan Duryea, both of whom turn in better performances than Lancaster. But it's a good film.
I've never liked Burt Lancaster, I've always quite consciously avoided his films. It might be just me, I guess, but he always seems self-conscious, he never disappears into a role for me. Criss Cross doesn't change my mind about him.
When he comes back to town, he finds his ex-wife, Anna (De Carlo), is still single but Duryea, who runs the local casino and underworld, has his eyes on her. Though she's seen dancing with a young Tony Curtis in one of his first film appearances.
Really, if she'd asked me, I'd have told her to go with Duryea instead of the vacillating and whiny Lancaster. But maybe she hadn't seen Duryea in Black Angel.
Criss Cross is beautifully, expressionisticly shot with plenty of gorgeous dark shadows and De Carlo has one of the best faces for it.
The heist of the armoured car that Lancaster and his father drive for a living is well put together with plenty of tension. The many double crosses in the film, as suggested by the title, are delivered effectively.
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