T-Men, a 1948 film starring Dennis O’Keefe and directed by Anthony Mann, is a noir procedural singed with greed and paranoia. In the style of a documentary the film follows the activities of two treasury agents who go undercover to infiltrate a counterfeiting ring run by the mob. The prologue includes a curious warning not to reproduce U.S. currency, then comes a rather lengthy exposition as we get to know the agents, not just who they are but also who they'll pretend to be. Things pick up around the halfway point, with chairs thrown, ears boxed (both ears simultaneously no less), a mean uppercut, murder by Turkish bath steam, and so on. The tension builds to a satisfying end. As far as 40s cop thrillers go this one is great for its noir shots and has an extra layer or two of complexity. The plot held my attention, with its sharper edges compared to, say, Naked City (also released in 1948). Or maybe Naked City tried too hard to be some palatable mix of gritty and cute, while T-Men skips the silly ba-dum-ching one-liners and gets down to brass tacks. Doing this, T-Men is more realistic and feels more sure of itself somehow. Also interesting is its 1940s portrayal of the Italian mafia, and two of the film's baddies are girls!
Updated: May 17, 2022