Format: Noir Alley on TCM
Director: Phil Karlson
For gangster and crime film fans, there's a lot to like in The Brothers Rico (1957), and I have to wonder how many future gangster pictures were influenced by this one. A story about family loyalty, gang loyalty, and where the two intersect, it's a tough picture.
Fortunately, it stars Richard Conte, who plays Eddie Rico, the eldest brother, pitch perfect. A former mob accountant, Eddie's gotten out, left NYC and is running a laundry company handling industrial jobs like hotels. He's married to a girl from the old neighborhood who talked him into getting out - and he's domesticated and ready to adopt a child when he's reminded he's still taking orders from New York. And on the heels of that, he finds his brothers have been involved in a hit, and aren't following the mobster playbook. One of them fell in love and grew a conscience.
Throw in an old school Italian mother (Argentina Brunetti) who sees her ties to the mob as a good thing for she and her family, when not genuflecting, and it's more than the usual mob story, and hints at what's coming in mob fiction.
There's no white-knight cop in this, nor any sign of law enforcement. Nor is there anywhere to go where the New York mob hasn't syndicated operations. As noir, it's about a character's belief in people, despite the fact they run a system that was always murderous, violent and corrupt. He may have walked away as a friend in his mind, but he had never truly walked away - especially with his brothers remaining entangled.
There are some phenomenal scenes in the film (Conte waiting all day with the local boss in his hotel room), and Conte's scenes with his mother.
But at the end of the day, the film has a very weird Hollywood ending that just doesn't fit everything we saw before. And absolutely can't have been what was in the original novel by Simenon or in the original screenplay.
Still, worth watching. Sometimes it feels positively modern.