Criss Cross (1949)

Rating: **
Review Date: 1/4/15
Cast: Burt Lancaster, Yvonne DeCarlo, Dan Duryea

A bleak tale of blind obsession and self destruction. Steve Thompson (Burt Lancaster) comes back to his home town after traveling across the country. He says he's back to take care of his aging mother, but subconsciously he's longing for his poisonous ex-wife, Anna (Yvonne DeCarlo). Like the lure of a potent drug, Steve absent-mindedly finds himself back at his old haunts, hoping to catch a glimpse of her. His fate is sealed when he finally sees her, and despite his anger and resentment towards her, he would do anything to be with her again - even if it means teaming up with a ruthless crook named Slim Dundee (Dan Duryea) to hold up the armored car company that he works for. Naturally, both Steve and Slim double-cross each other, which leads to a tense and downbeat climax.

It's a mildly entertaining caper film, but the pacing is dreadfully slow and Burt Lancaster seems to be in a perpetual daze. While this may intentionally reflect the result of his emotional blinders, it leaves the film without a strong and engaging lead. Yvonne DeCarlo gives a confusingly schizophrenic performance, and you're never quite sure where she's coming from. Dan Duryea is probably the most compelling actor in the film, and he embodies Slim with an intimidating sense of calm that just oozes evil. While the film looks nice, the story and characters are bland and uninteresting. The themes of lust, greed, obsession, and betrayal ensure that no one gets a happy ending, and the entire thing feels like an exercise in futility.