At a mere 65 minutes, you’d think it would be challenging for a film to be overly bad. Even a modicum of plot should be able to sustain a single hour’s worth of celluloid, right? Usually, yes. But not always.
Which brings us to 1946’s Inside Job, which in spite of the above comment, does have some bright spots. The first half (hour) is fairly entertaining. Only in the second half does the bus lose its proverbial wheels.
A second tier film from the start, Inside Job sports a few strong stalwarts among its cast. Preston Foster is reformed crime boss Bart Madden who encounters a former co-conspirator working as a mechanical man in the window of a department store. This old ‘friend’ is Eddie Norton (as played by Alan Curtis). Eddie has a record that he’s hidden from the store in order to get the job. In spite of this, we get the impression that Eddie has lived the straight and narrow since his transgression with the law.
Madden concocts a plan to rob the store- it’s the Holiday season so the vault should be full- with Eddie’s help. Eddie resists but finally succumbs after Madden threatens to expose his past, which will surely cause Eddie to lose his job.
At home with his wife Claire (Ann Rutherford), Eddie concocts a different plan. With his hand already forced, Eddie will go ahead and rob the store himself, but keep the proceeds and leave Madden in the cold. Claire, who is also a model for the store (damn, this is a small world), will tease and flirt with Madden, distracting him while the heist goes down.
Madden takes the bait, buying Claire an exorbinantly priced gown, which she cloyingly attempts to return to him at his apartment while Eddie is getting the goods. As the pendulum swings, she agrees to wear it out to dinner with him. Then the phone rings.
Evidently Madden isn’t a fool and has the store staked out, and his stooge reports that Eddie never left the store after it closed that day and is still inside, making good on his aim to steal the money. Knowing he’s been played, Madden tosses Claire out, stating that, “You can take that rag [gown] with you, as it’s all you’ll get here.”
Thus ends the best part of the picture, as the rest proceeds with Claire and Eddie on the run. Most of this time is spent focusing on their time in an apartment, though it is never explained whose apartment it is. They befriend a neighbor family, and slowly the stakes are increased as they meet more of the family. First it is the boy and his dog. Then their maid. Finally, the boy’s father, who is a cop (who can afford a maid). In spite of the risk, a friendship is created. Claire finds herself wanting a son of her own, though she doesn’t share this want with Eddie- only promising there is something she wants that she will tell him about.
Madden gets tipped off finally to Eddies whereabouts and bangs on their door. After there is no response he draws a gun and shoots the lock out. At the same moment their policeman neighbor is climbing the stairs, his arms full of Christmas presents. He drops them and draws on Madden and they exchange shots. The policeman takes a round and falls, immediately unconscious. But in the process he’s also given Madden as good as he got, though Madden manages to barge into the apartment and confront Eddie before he collapses.
Claire and Eddie, who are already packed to leave for good, are about to step over the fallen body of their neighbor. With his son wailing as to why his Daddy won’t talk to him, they agree to delay their escape to help him, calling a doctor to tend to him.
Finally they are captured and go to trial. In spite of the somewhat extenuating circumstances, they are both sentenced ‘as per the statutes.’ As the curtain falls, they are about to be separated to serve their sentences. Eddie states that she never shared what she wanted. Knowing that by the time she is out of prison that children will no longer be an option, Claire gently pats his hands and says, “Oh, never mind.”
Given the short run time and weak second half, the inclusion of Claire’s mystery desire for a child is almost a non-entity as it is a potentially significant theme which isn’t given any time to percolate. Instead it is just a distraction.
What started out so strongly as a good crime drama struggles mightily after the heist is over, including a few lapses in common sense. In a post-heist scene where they are interrogating the cashier who is in charge of the vault of the store, they reveal the amount of the heist to the penny- in this case forty-seven of them. If you were prone to thievery and had a quarter million dollars available to you, would you bother with change? I think not.
The real flaw in Inside Job is the second half, most of which involves Claire and Eddie making friends with their short-term neighbors in order to set up the finale. Though important to some extent, it also feels like fluff as well. Perhaps the boy and his dog along with the maid could have been deleted or trimmed, as a single poignant episode with the family next door would have sufficed.
The first half of the film is as good as the second half is woeful. Foster is excellent overall as the boss turned good. Rutherford, even with her limited range, is impressive and effectively flirtatious as needed. If there is a challenge to the leads it is Alan Curtis, who frankly seems a bit flat.
It is hard to recommend Inside Job, but it is also unfair to dismiss it entirely. Given the insanely short run time, go check it out if you can.