Masters Of Cinema #89 - Boomerang! - Blu-ray Review

'How do you present a system as resolutely broken, yet celebrate it come the finale? Elia Kazan here finds a way.'

It's not often that I'm underwhelmed by a Masters Of Cinema release, but Elia Kazan's 1947 film Boomerang! did precious little for me whilst it unfolded a Conservative narrative about how great the US justice system is.

The second of those two points proves particularly difficult to take, with Kazan presenting a story which just doesn't seem to support his patriotic defence of a system he seems to present as broken. Sent in to prosecute a would-be murderer, Kazan presents State's Attorney Henry Harvey (Dana Andrews) as the ultimate fail-safe, able to argue in defence of the man he should be prosecuting, if he feels he is actually innocent. To get to this point though, how many things need to go wrong in Kazan's lauded legal world? Police, judge, witnesses, the press and the accused himself all fall foul of legal technique, police practice and trial by fire to move to a point at the start of the third act where Harvey must decide which way to sway. The narration at the end of the film feels less like the triumph it is meant as, more like war time propaganda. How do you present a system as resolutely broken, yet celebrate it come the finale? Kazan here finds a way.

If his message seems confused then sometimes Kazan's film-making can only succeed in muddying it further. Described as a Noir, the opening 15 minutes or so of Boomerang! is anything but. In fact, it's almost knockabout stuff, jauntily swayed along by the voiceover which, though very much of its time, is still a stupendously lazy way of delivering a raft of exposition. A sub-plot involving a casual bit of blackmail is thrown in far too late, linking two threads together, one of which you've long since ceased to care about. The fact the audience may find it hard to care about is mirrored by the characters. Harvey simply proceeds as planned with little care to the threat, which eventually resolves itself.

The script too just seems to play into the occasionally twee way the central mystery is dealt with. At one point the fact that the police do not know the identity of the murderer is held up as a reason why the F.B.I should not be called in. Is this a deliberate error, designed to show the failings of the system (back to them), or a scripting foible, missed on second draft? By that point I wasn't completely sure, but that kind of thing creeps in often, as do decidedly codified line deliveries, making even the better parts of the script (the final legal argument is compelling) sound somewhat staid.

It does have an extremely good courtroom-based final act to see it across the finish line, though even that cannot escape the clutches of some of the film's less successful elements and you do wonder exactly how Harvey managed to uncover all that he does, given that Kazan elects to show you little-to-none of his investigation to that point. The flashback structure revealed here doesn't help much, though there is one dramatic moment because of it, in a film sorely lacking a greater helping of them.

Founded in 2004, The Masters of Cinema Series is an independent, carefully curated, UK-based Blu-ray and DVD label, now consisting of over 150 films. Films are presented in their original aspect ratio (OAR), in meticulous transfers created from recent restorations and / or the most pristine film elements available.

Boomerang! is released in the UK on Monday 26th May 2014

By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

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