Pickup on South Street is filled to the brim with morally questionable people. Coppers bribe informants in order to get information, women make themselves a business out of telling things that they shouldn’t know to anyone with the right price, they steal, they are communists, or they will do anything for a nice dress. But no matter what they do, you still want to watch these characters figure out what they need to figure out in order to keep living and being on the screen.
Fuller fills the screen with their crimes, their motives and the grimy streets of New York City. The story follows a pickpocket who accidentally pickpocketed something that is of interest to the Reds. What follows is a chase for the pickpocket, the pickpocket for the Reds and everyone trying to stay away from the cops who are of course hot on their tail. This film is filled with dirty tricks, fast language, smoking females, and inside business just like a good noir should be. What sets this film a part is the care that is given to these characters. Although the informant could be seen purely as a slime, she is in fact imbued with humanity and the want to get a decent place to go when she dies. The pickpocket and the dame are on the surface dirty money-grubbing people who will cross anyone if it is of interest to them, but something brings them together and they become the searchers for the truth of the situation. The only people who are not given much dimension are of course the Reds, but that is to be expected in a time where the common belief was that the Reds had no soul.
This tight boiler suspense film would be a perfect introduction to film noir if you are looking for it. This is what a film noir should look like, feel like and sound like. There is dirt and grime everywhere, but you still see the shine of a good character.