REVIEW: BOOMERANG! / CERT: PG / DIRECTOR: ELIA KAZAN / SCREENPLAY: RICHARD MURPHY / STARRING: DANA ANDREWS, LEE J. COBB, JANE WYATT, ARTHUR KENNEDY, KARL MALDEN / RELEASE DATE: MAY 26TH
This latest Masters of Cinema release sees 1947’s Boomerang! get the remastered, special edition treatment. Kazan’s film, based on a true story, centres on a murder in an everyday American town. A priest is murdered on a street corner and all witnesses point the finger at out-of-towner John Waldron (Kennedy). With political pressure on the powers that be to charge somebody with the heinous act, the police, led by Chief Robinson (Cobb), finally get Waldron to sign a confession. Despite this, Waldron maintains his innocence. When District Attorney Henry Harvey (Andrews) starts to fight Waldron’s corner, the D.A. must essentially tear apart his own case. With corruption, blackmail and politics all firmly in play, this is the story of one man deciding to do what is ethically and morally correct.
Boomerang! is a film that stands up to this day, with its themes and thought-provoking nature still relevant and as strong as ever. Kazan delivers a beautifully constructed film which plays as if you’re watching a documentary. Central to all of this is the character of Henry Harvey. With pressure on him from above to convict Waldron, it’s Harvey’s strength of character that puts him on another path, a problematic path. Instead of taking the easy route and just convicting Waldron, Harvey makes a stand, with him left questioning what it is that he does for a living. With a trial shrouded in lies and blackmail, Harvey goes against the grain in order to try and achieve true justice.
With all of that said, it’s clearly Dana Andrews who is the star of the show here. As the D.A., Andrews is brilliant in the way his character flip-flops throughout, and he’s no better than when he’s exposing false witnesses. Also putting in a strong performance is Arthur Kennedy as the black sheep of the picture. His portrayal of a man desperate to prove his innocence, yet with the odds stacked against him and beaten down by the system, is a joy to watch. The other main players are adequate, although they sometimes suffer from so much of the attention being on Andrews. Then again, he is simply a cut above here.
Movies of this nature seem to be a rarity these days. When was the last time you saw a great courtroom-heavy film? Boomerang! is a thoughtful film that is handled brilliantly by Kazan, and the documentary-lite feel to it only adds to the overall product. And speaking of which, this is another Masters of Cinema release that has some nice extras, the most impressive of which is likely the accompanying booklet. Maybe the kids of today won’t appreciate Boomerang!, and it certainly is a movie of its time, but the nuances, style, pacing and performances, not to mention the new transfer, are all top drawer.
Extras: “Elia Kazan – An Outsider” documentary / Trailer / 44-page booklet