Odd Man Out

In repertory at Film Forum through September 17.

The great actor James Mason gets top billing in Carol Reed’s moody, noirish 1947 film about a Irish nationalist wounded in a robbery for the cause and abandoned by his crew, but the credits are misleading. Odd Man Out isn’t a star-driven picture, and even though Mason spends more time onscreen than anyone else, a good deal of that time he’s not doing much, just staggering about, slipping in and out of consciousness. His character, the badly injured Johnny McQueen, is in no condition to act; instead, throughout, he is acted upon.

And that’s just one of the ways in which Odd Man Out defies expectations. What initially looks like a thoughtful heist flick turns into a series of character studies with heavy religious undertones. Despite the noirish cinematographic touches, the movie doesn’t have much in common, thematically, with the genre. And despite the title card’s assurances that the movie is “not concerned with the struggle between the law and an illegal organization,” clearly meant to be the IRA, that’s not precisely true. Odd Man Out dramatically portrays a town under lockdown, where citizens can’t trust the police or one another, where people are gunned down in the streets. The question of who is ultimately at fault—the British police or the Irish nationalists—might not be the focus, but the ramifications of that conflict are.