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6 Degrees Entertainment

'Chicago Confidential'
(Brian Keith, Beverly Garland, Dick Foran, et al / DVD / NR / 2011 / MGM)

Overview: Brian Keith stars as Jim Fremont, an Illinois States Attorney fighting corrupt unions in Chicago. The union crooks in collaboration with a gambling syndicate try to pin a murder rap on an uncooperative union leader Blane (Dick Foran). Fremont and his co-worker fiancee Laura (Beverly Garland), work to prove Blane's innocence and to punish the true villains.

DVD Verdict: There's nothing particularly original about this story of corrupt unions on one side and the "chief attorney" on the other. The stark but unimaginative lighting and photography stems from the fagged out noir cycle. The story could easily have been out of a Warner Brothers drawer with George Raft in the lead.

The performances are routine, the direction flat, and even the set dressing perfunctory. (An alley is shown by a single plaster wall of simulated brick. It has one poster on it. The poster says, "Post No Bills.") We are introduced to the story and some of the characters by a portentous narrator who informs us that, while most unions work hard and honestly to advance the causes of their members, a few are corrupt.

But we don't really get to know much about the unions or how they operate, although I suppose they were fair game after the success of "On the Waterfront" a few years earlier. Here they're just a peg to hang the tale on. The real ring leader is a disbarred lawyer who runs things through three or four thugs.

The District Attorney (or whatever he is) finds out, like Dana Andrews did in "Boomerang," that the wrong man (Dick Foran) is charged with a murder and he spends the rest of the film almost alone, digging up evidence of Foran's innocence. He gets into fist fights and shoot outs like any inexpensive movie private eye.

Brian Keith is the D.A. He's shown some insinuating displays of talent elsewhere, but here he spends most of the time speaking quietly and staring at the floor. Elisha Cook, Jr., is a likable rummy but can't do a good drunk. Beverley Garland is okay but is undermined by the direction, which has her gawking in a night club when she should be furtive. The remainder of the cast would be suitable for a TV series. This is a Full Screen presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.