The Bribe (1949)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 7/19/14
Cast: Robert Taylor, Ava Gardner, Charles Laughton, Vincent Price

Rigby (suave Robert Taylor) is a federal agent sent to Central America to uncover an illegal military surplus racket, and falls head over heels in love with the prime suspect's wife, Elizabeth (dreamy Ava Gardner). But is she as innocent as she seems, or is she involved in the operation as well? This is the question that plagues Rigby throughout the entire movie, and Elizabeth is a constant distraction to his mission. But is she distracting him on purpose, and will Rigby sell himself out for her charms?

"The Bribe" is a fun little romantic adventure featuring a couple of outrageously attractive leads. The sexual tension between Rigby and Elizabeth is as hot and steamy as the tropical locale, although Elizabeth is a frustratingly archetypal cock-tease. She's all warm, sweet, sensual, and inviting until there's a physical connection, and then she totally shuts down. Ava Gardner is stunningly beautiful and plays her duplicitous femme fatale role to perfection. The film moves at a decent pace and the story is full of intrigue, twists, and double-crosses. It's an interesting study of honor, greed, duty, and lust, and how quick and easy it is to betray yourself and stray from the moral high ground. Charles Laughton and Vincent Price make excellent antagonists, and it's wonderful seeing them work all the angles. The black and white cinematography sets an excellent mood, and creates a heightened sense of claustrophobia and paranoia. Good stuff.