Another "thought I would like it better" movie. It even has a little video extra where Martin Scorsese tells us how he saw it as a kid, loved it, and went on to make movies influenced by it. But…
John Garfield plays Joe, a lawyer in the employ of the mob. As the movie opens, he's about to hatch a scheme involving the numbers game in New York City: have the number "776" come up on the Fourth of July, a day when everyone plays "776". This will drive the small-time numbers "banks" into bankruptcy, and the mob can just waltz in, and take over.
Problem: Joe's brother, Leo, owns one of those banks. Although expressly forbidden to do so by his gangster boss, Joe tries to warn Leo about what's going to happen. Leo declines the help; he's got nothing but contempt for his mobbed-up brother.
Of course, Leo's operation is also, technically, illegal. He's just small-time, though, so it's OK.
Joe tries Plan B: call in the (corrupt, of course) cops to raid Leo's operation. This doesn't go well. In addition, Joe catches the eye of the lovely, innocent, Doris, who works for Leo. (Yes, she's "innocent" despite working the numbers racket. Everything's relative.)
It's a film noir, so consequences are dark and tragic. There are a lot of visually striking noirish shots.
The director/screenwriter, Abraham Polonsky, was blacklisted for not "naming names" for HUAC. (He was, however, a Communist Party member, so ick.
John Garfield "acts" by (unfortunately) yelling a lot.