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TitleAct of Violence (1949)
Alternative/Original Title
DirectorFred Zinnemann
CastVan Heflin Robert Ryan Janet Leigh Mary Astor
NotesB/W A man (Ryan) who walks with a limp goes into a house and takes a gun from a drawer. He then boards a Greyhound bus and gets off in a small town just as a Veterans Parade for Memorial Day passes by. What follows is his pursuit of his 'victim' (Heflin) from home to fishing spot and back to home. And no luck there because the guy has scarpered to a conference in L.A..... Ryan is a man with an obsession. He tells his victim's wife (Leigh) that during the war her husband was a stoolie in a P.O.W..... camp who got his colleagues killed and was responsible for his limp. In L.A... at the conference Heflin sees Ryan coming for him and runs off, ending in a bar where the only person besides the barman is a young woman. She picks him up and takes him home and later to a club where she arranges for him to meet some of her friends. He's being set-up for a deal where for a good price these people will get rid of his pursuer. But after the hit is arranged Heflin is in despair and tries to kill himself, unfortunately the train he thinks will hit him takes another track. Remorseful he goes to warn Ryan about the paid assassin and takes the bullet meant for Ryan and dies 'regenerated'. Ryan's character's disability looks here to be an obvious complement to his bitterness common in films of this era. But there's more to it. Ryan is a loner. We see his bare bed sitter. He presumably has no job. Whereas Heflin is a successful builder, has a happy marriage, enjoys fishing trips and generally has an uncomplicated, comfortable life. Into that life comes Ryan, almost like the devil, leaving Heflin dead, his wife a widow, the community less a good citizen. Is this justified payment for one act of treachery during the war? Heflin does explain that he told the Germans about an escape attempt because he feared all the escapees would be shot. The Germans promised Heflin they would be well treated but then went back on their word. One evil spawns another evil. But Ryan's 'crippled leg' and his obsession suggest that he is not the good avenger representing his fallen comrades, more a flawed character within himself.

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