No Way Out (1950)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Crime Drama, Social Problem Film  |   Release Date - Aug 16, 1950 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 106 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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No Way Out has dated significantly since its release in 1950, a problem that often afflicts "social message" pictures. However, it still packs a punch, especially if one is prepared to overlook its preachiness and if one has a fondness for melodramas that are very black-and-white. Although often categorized as a film noir, Way doesn't really fit into that category. It does have some striking high-contrast cinematography, and certainly Linda Darnell physically is fatale as a femme can be, but Way lacks the man-against-his-fate nihilism and other hallmarks of the genre. Way's dialogue is also not the kind associated with noir, although it possesses that special Joseph L. Mankiewicz crackle. It also, unfortunately, is overly obvious in hammering home its points. Way is best remembered as the film that gave Sidney Poitier his first big starring role, and although his career didn't take off for a few years afterward, he delivers the goods with the kind of quietly moving, dignified portrayal that he perfected in later years. Darnell is also very good, as are Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Mildred Joanne Smith, and the supporting cast in general, but it's Richard Widmark's wildly committed performance that makes the film special. Out of control and over the top, it's a psychotic performance that very few could pull off. Widmark is totally repellent, yet undeniably fascinating; one can't take one's eyes off of him, even though he's an outrageous and despicable character. The actor makes it quite believable that he could raise a riot if he so desired. Viewers should be warned, however, that Widmark's language, as befits his character, is peppered with racial epithets that even at the time were unacceptable; modern audiences may find it even harder to listen to him at times.