Samuel Fuller scarcely used Dwight Taylor's source material, a languid courtroom romance, in crafting this pugnacious potboiler. Pickup on South Street is strictly Fuller film noir -- lean and wicked straight to its core. Barely out of prison, loner and pickpocket Skip McCoy (Richard Widmark) quietly helps himself to the contents of a woman's purse. His beautiful victim, Candy (Jean Peters), turns out to be an unwitting courier for the communist underground; McCoy's booty is actually microfilmed U.S. government secrets, formerly en route to Moscow. Both the FBI and Candy's employers are desperate to retrieve the film. The apolitical and arrogant McCoy has a plan to play both ends against the middle and come up ahead. However, dealing with the authorities may mean life in the clink, and the sadistic communists would rather kill McCoy than pay him off. He quickly becomes embroiled with Candy, who will risk everything to right her wrongs, and eventually even more to save her new man. When McCoy loses a cohort and Candy is almost killed, the cocksure pickpocket finds a stronger motivation than personal gain.
by Aubry Anne D'Arminio synopsis