Not so Gutsy Film-Noir
Whilst at sea Capt. Johnny Angel (George Raft) comes across a boat floating aimlessly in the foggy waters which on closer inspection not only is it his father's ship but there is no sign of him or his crew, just the cargo. Having towed it back to harbour Johnny is determined to get answers and as he searches the ship he comes across a woman's shoe possibly fitting the woman that the dock master saw leaving the dock a half an hour earlier. With the aid of cab driver Celestial O'Brien (Hoagy Carmichael) Johnny goes from bar to bar looking for the woman and when he meets Paulette (Signe Hasso) is convinced she was on the ship. But Paulette is in no mood to talk and it seems someone doesn't want her to when she is shot at walking along the street.
"Johnny Angel" starts of surprisingly good, we have the image of the abandoned boat in the fog and a few scenes later when Johnny searches the ship in dock there is great use of light and shadow to make for some great film-noir imagery. Unfortunately it soon goes down hill as we watch Johnny stomp into one place after another trying to track down the woman and get answers. And I used stomp for a reason because George Raft is the star of "Johnny Angel" and it is a typically stiff performance from the actor, arms hanging rigid by his side, the emotionless dialogue and so much more. Raft may get across an element of a man obsessed with discovering what happened to his father but it is a lifeless performance.
Aside from George Raft well "Johnny Angel" also suffers from the fact the start is so good with all that follows failing to live up to it. There are very few standout moments which have as good imagery as the opening and you long for that same stunning style which enriches the opening. Don't get me wrong as there are some good scenes, a pan along a bridge is nicely done as is the use of a window to light up a warehouse but so much of it is ordinary that these scenes are just minor flashes in a dull production.
Then there is the story, the mystery of what happened to Angel's father and for the most it feels text book. We have the mysterious woman who Johnny seems to take a liking too and some forced scenes of typical noirish style and dialogue. It probably does appeal more to true fans of film-noir but for general movie fans it struggles to keep hold of your attention even when things start to fall into place.
What this all boils down to is that "Johnny Angel" is probably a movie that devotees of film-noir will enjoy more than just casual movie lovers. And unfortunately whilst it has various issues the biggest one is George Raft who is stiff from start to finish.