24 janvier 1949. Encore tout ballonné des excès des fêtes de fin d’année, le passant cinéphile pénètre dans la salle du Loew pour découvrir le nouveau Fred Zinnemann, Act of Violence, avec Van Heflin, Robert Ryan et Janet Leigh.
Critique d’époque :
« The best thing about Act of Violence, which came to Loew’s Criterion on Saturday, is that it consistently gives evidence of smart direction by Fred Zinnemann. The drama itself is incredible, it being a cut and jointed tale of the hounding down and destruction of a fellow who betrayed his comrades during the war. And it pulls an exasperating swindle of building up sympathy for this fellow at the beginning and then suddenly making him out a scoundrel.
Since this rapid switch of personality is obviously based on nothing more than the author’s crafty intention to cross-up the audience, it has no psychological justification, no moral significance. And since the final purgation is thoroughly theatrical, it provokes little more in the way of reaction than a bleakly so-what discontent.
This is because the entire development of the tale, once the switch is pulled, is a purely mechanical succession of melodramatic stunts. From a cruelly put upon young husband pursued by a mysterious fiend, which is what we perceive at the beginning, the hero becomes nothing more than another designated target in agitated flight from a guy with a gun. Some of the ugly encounters which he has with the underworld are grotesque and technically revolting. And they move fast and grimly. But that is all.
For this latter asset of the picture, we have Mr. Zinnemann to thank. He has pictured, at least, a visual setting for terror and violence and he has kept the pursued and the pursuer going at a grueling pace. In the former role, Van Heflin strains and sweats impressively. As his relentless pursuer, Robert Ryan is infernally taut. Mr. Zinnemann has also extracted a tortured performance from Janet Leigh as the fearful, confused and disillusioned wife of the hunted man and he has got squalid portraits of scoundrels from Mary Astor, Berry Kroeger and Taylor Holmes.
Technically Act of Violence touches all the bases in its circuit chase. But it is as though it were doing it on the strength of a long, foul ball« . Par Bosley Crowther pour le New York Times.
Si Bosley Crowther loue la réalisation de Fred Zinnemann et sa direction d’acteurs à l’occasion de Act of Violence, c’est pour mieux regretter une intrigue tordue qui se joue des spectateurs sans proposer réellement de fondement psychologique.