I’ve watched “Odds Against Tomorrow” multiple times on TCM, and it stands out as a quintessential film noir masterpiece. The movie captivates with its nerve-snapping suspense, gritty style, and unflinching exploration of racial tension, merging into what the Los Angeles Examiner aptly described as a “thunderbolt of a film.” Directed by the legendary Robert Wise, known for his work on “The Set-Up” and “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” and written by the acclaimed duo Abraham Polonsky (“Force of Evil”) and Nelson Gidding (“The Haunting”), the film is an adaptation of William P. McGivern’s novel “The Big Heat.”
Stellar performances by acting greats Harry Belafonte, Robert Ryan, Shelley Winters, Ed Begley, and Gloria Grahame elevate this crime melodrama, often hailed as a trailblazer for being the first film noir to feature a black protagonist. The plot revolves around the irresistible lure of a $150,000 bank robbery, tempting bigoted ex-convict Earl Slater (Ryan) to join forces with former cop Burke (Begley). However, the dynamics shift when Slater discovers that one of his partners is a black man (Belafonte). As the tension escalates and the men approach their potentially life-changing score, Slater’s deep-seated hatred surfaces, leading to violent consequences that impact not only the heist but also the trajectory of their lives. “Odds Against Tomorrow” is a gripping exploration of crime, prejudice, and the explosive intersection of these elements in a high-stakes narrative.