Reviewed by JONATHAN LEWIS:         

THE BROTHERS RICO. Columbia Pictures, 1957. Richard Conte, Dianne Foster, Kathryn Grant, Larry Gates, James Darren, Argentina Brunetti. Screenplay: Lewis Meltzer , based on the novel Les frères Rico by Georges Simenon (Paris, 1952). Director: Phil Karlson.

   Adapted from a Georges Simenon story, The Brothers Rico is an effective, albeit decidedly uneven, crime film that packs some great punches, but occasionally gets bogs down in family melodrama. The film features an exceptionally well cast Richard Conte as Eddie Rico, a former mob accountant now living an idyllic suburban life and running an allegedly clean business.

   But just how clean is Eddie’s laundry business? It’s ambiguous, to say the least, but he at least has the persona of a respectable businessman and has assured his wife that his connected days are long since past.

   Then out of the blue, a letter and a phone call change all that, casting doubt on Rico and his wife’s plans to adopt a child. Apparently, Eddie’s two other brothers, Gino and Johnny, were involved in a hit, and now Johnny is nowhere to be found. According to Sid Kubik (Larry Gates), Eddie’s serpentine former boss based in sunny Miami, Johnny may be on his way to turning state’s evidence against the organization.

   Kubik sends Eddie to New York to track down Johnny to get him out of the country and to make sure that Johnny’s brother-in-law doesn’t force the young Rico brother to turn his back on the family, so to speak.

   Overall, The Brothers Rico is worth a look. Conte is forceful and convincing in the lead and the atmosphere is one of entrapment and moral turpitude. Eddie’s a man with feet in three different worlds: the warm, communal Little Italy neighborhood where his mother and grandmother still live; the suburban Florida life he shares with his wife; and the sleazy, opportunistic realm of organized crime.

   Some of the film’s most effective scenes are filmed outdoors in the bright sunlight, a compelling moral contrast to the dark world in which the three brothers, none of them as innocent as they might think themselves to be, are ensnared.

   Although packaged as part of a film noir DVD box set from Columbia Pictures, the cinematography in The Brothers Rico isn’t noir at all, although the movie does feature a protagonist whose world is spinning out of control. [SPOILER ALERT: Had the studio cut out the innocent, happy ending, it actually would have made the film a lot more noir than it ends up when all is said and done.]