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Joe Gargen (George Raft) has just been released from prison and now he
wants to start a new life. To that end, he (temporarily) moves in with his
sister Martha (Helen Westcott) and her husband Ed (William Phipps), gets
friendly with their neighbour Ann (Dorothy Hart), and agrees to try for a
job at the tire factory everybody in the neighbourhood seems to be working
However, the company's boss Rennick (Charles Meredith) doesn't want to
hire Gargen as an ordinary worker but rather as an undercover investigator
supposed to find out more about the loan shark racket that seems to be a
serious problem in not only the factory but the whole town. Gargen, who
only wants a decent, legal job, declines since he figures the whole thing
might blow up in his face. His brother-in-law on the other hand tries to
mobilize the workers against the racket - and for that he dies in an accident
in the factory ...
This is too much for Gargen, who now accepts Rennick's offer after all,
and at the factory he soon poses as a naive worker who is easily persuaded
to taking up gambling and taking up a loan by colleague Charlie Thompson
(Russell Johnson), who is in league with the loan sharks - and soon
enough, Gargen is in debt and unable to pay up - so the racket sends over
a thug to beat him up good ... but streetwise Gargen beats up the thug
This impresses Vince Phillips (John Hoyt), boss of the organisation,
and he hires Gargen on the spot, as a muscle and collector at first - but
Gargen has big ideas (or pretends to have), like setting up another loan
shark racket aimed directly at housewives in the guise of a laundry
service ... and with Gargen's ideas, Phillips is impressed even more, so
soon Gargen runs his own subdivision - however, he still figures he hasn't
found out all there is to find out and desperately tries to get to
Phillips' boss ... thing is, he has no idea who that might be.
Gargen's private life suffers though from his undercover
investigations, since his sister Martha as well as his sweetheart Ann
think he has become a gangster and want nothing more to do with him ...
and above all that, he is forced to beat up Ann's brother (Henry Slate) by
Donelli (Paul Stewart), the only one in the organisation who distrusts him
- which is for Gargen especially problematic because he's still on parole
and a thing like this could get him right back into prison. So he
eventually overpowers Donelli, who has figured him out even though he has
beaten up Ann's brother, and forces Phillips at gubnpoint to take him to
the big boss, Walter Kerr (Lawrence Dobkin), who lives in a penthouse
above a theatre ... and of course, it all ends in a shootout in the
theatre, with all the baddies getting their just desserts, Gargen being
rehabilitated by the police and getting the girl - Ann - after all.
Acleverly written gangster film/film noir that takes a multi-layered
approach at its rather linear storyline, investigates the blurry line
between good and evil and is beautifully carried by George Raft, despite
his career being on the decline. Unfortunately all this is let down by a
very flat and uninspired directorial job that simply doesn't do its script
Still, Loan Shark is quite watchable and entertaining actually,
it just could have been so much more.