The Enforcer* (1951) Bretaigne Windust
(*aka Murder, Inc.)
Assistant District Attorney Martin Ferguson (Humphrey Bogart) loses a man who has agreed to testify against crime lord Albert Mendoza (Everett Sloane). Mendoza leads a group of killers-for-hire and their hard-to-trace methods leave Ferguson baffled. As odd as it seems to us today, terms like “hit” and “contract” were somewhat new in 1951, and Ferguson and his men spend significant time trying to define them. Even once they do, Ferguson realizes that getting to Mendoza won’t be easy.
The Enforcer is a good, solid film noir that isn’t great, but is pretty darn good, thanks mostly to the cast. Bogart seems just a bit pedestrian as the DA, far from the wise-cracking detective he played in many of his other noir pictures, yet believability eventually gains a foothold. More impressive is the supporting cast, including wonderful performances by Zero Mostel as “Big Babe” Lazick, one of the contract killers, Ted de Corsia as the informant, and Everett Sloane, who’s always excellent.
A plethora of flashbacks make things a little murky, but this is noir, right? Flashbacks are practically obligatory. Although Bretaigne Windust is credited with directing the film, many of the movie’s action scenes (as well as the ending) were directed by Raoul Walsh (uncredited).