The Wrong Man shows off a lean, mean Hitchcock on the cold, hard streets of New York — it’s the ‘hood verisimilitude of Sidney Lumet and the gritty, near-documentary B&W approach of the Italian neo-realists, both coupled with surprising amounts of restraint and emotion, all rolled into one densely packed crime drama burrito. Hewing closely to the somber real-life story of Manny Balestrero — an innocent nightclub musician mistakenly identified as the creep responsible for an insurance office robbery — Hitch gives us his noir version of a CSI-style procedural. Henry Fonda is fantastic in the lead, thoroughly losing himself in the role of a quiet, humbled, scared-witless Italian-American everyman. And, as the grim tension ratchets up with every passing scene, we know our hero is completely screwed, yet we’re in awe of Hitch’s myriad maestro touches: every clanking footstep on linoleum, every damp concrete sidewalk, the white-noise roar of every passing subway train, and each terrifying, grimy baby step down the corridors of the archaic NYC justice system.
Dir. Alfred Hitchcock, 1956, 35mm, 105 min.