Sometimes when a person is sinking, the only direction to go is further down in the hopes that they come out the other side. As most will know, that usually makes things worse, so much so that one ends up drowning. Dan Brady is an everyman, a regular Joe with a job who is just looking to make ends meet while trying to find a little love. It begins with him digging himself a little hole, one he could easily climb out of, or so he thinks and soon enough it turns into a crater and he is on the run for his life after having committed numerous crimes.
Mickey Rooney stars in this noir thriller, one that is slightly tame when it is all said and done but also one that keeps you watching, wondering just how it is that Brady is going to get himself out of his predicament. He ties his fate to what can only be called trouble on two legs, a femme fatale played by Jeanne Cagney who always seems to have the answers, helping Brady dig himself ever deeper until she finally abandons him in the end when he needs her the most. One can easily see where this film is going through the ending shakes things up just a little, Brady making it to the surface just when all the signs pointed to him not surviving. It is predictable but the performances from the two leads in Rooney and Cagney make it all worth watching and it does not hurt that Peter Lorre stops by for a bit part as the grungy arcade owner, a man who has a past with Cagney’s Vera and ends up making things even more complicated for Brady.
Seeing Rooney go against type was interesting, the man known for his good-guy roles, a career so ingrained that one had to wonder if he was able to do anything else. Suffice it to say, this movie would prove that he could though there were times during the first act where it just seemed like he might be going through the motions perhaps a little bored with the material though it quickly turns around. Brady does gain a bit of sympathy from the audience as there are many that can relate to his situation and not the crimes but the reasons for them. That sympathy probably came easier than it would have had another been in the driver’s seat, it being hard to think of Rooney as anything other than the boy next door but that too would work in his favour as that everyman character. If there was one thing that seemed strange, it was the blind devotion of Helen as played by Barbara Bates, a woman in love with Brady who just casually accepts that he murdered a man, committed a robbery and so on. Sometimes love must be truly blind.
As a whole, Quicksand is a solid effort though it could have packed a bit more of a punch than it did, especially considering that one could easily see where it was headed for the most part. That being said, director Irving Pichel did a fine job with the material, the man knowing how to get the most from his cast and with the added atmosphere provided by the Santa Monica Pier among other locales, it would add up to a noir that is maybe not one recognized as one of the best but a bit of a gem nonetheless.
3.5 out of 5