Michael Redgrave was a Shakespearian actor. He developed his talents by interpreting Shakespeare in a way that only the English can. However he was unlike Lawrence Olivier or Ian McKellen who were able to take their talents on the Shakespearian stage and transform them into lucrative movie careers. Instead his performances are mostly overlooked by both the audiences of the day and even today, which is a great pity. In Time Without Pity, Redgrave issues a performance that is at once over the top and subtle. And I couldn’t take my eyes off of him.
A young man sits on death row, convinced that he didn’t commit the crime everyone else says he did. The father of this young man gets out of a sanitarium in Canada and learns of his fate. The father rushes to England but only has twenty-four hours to save the son he has neglected for most of his life. As he progresses through the day, he visits his son’s childhood friend and this friend’s family. He learns early on that there is something off about this family. It is dominated by the father, a loud proponent of fast cars. The son and wife seem mouse like in comparison and invisibly flinch every time he looks at them. There is also a secretary that seemed to have an intimate relationship with the father and gained a lucrative promotion for seemingly no reason after the murder was committed. Each one of these characters seem off in the only way a noir character can. The father must control his drinking and his emotions enough to extract the true reason why the girl was killed and get his son off of death row. But how is he going to do it?
Redgrave puts in a great performance of a hysterical man at his wit’s end. Everyone seems to have given up on both him and his son. He has to stay strong against such adverse circumstances. The audience knows who the killer was from the moment the film started, but to watch him try to solve the mystery is at turns heart wrenching and frustrating. Of course there would be no suspense if he realizes who it was half way through the movie, but I felt like the director put unneeded obstructions in this character’s path. The most annoying one being the mother of the secretary. Redgrave spends too much time in the mother’s house watching her get visibly drunk while not really gleaning anything out of her except for her love excruciating alarms. Also I found the wife of the domineering man to be too weepy and weak-willed. She stands around declaring her love for the son on death row, but not really helping find out anything about the situation. At a certain point she gets slapped in the face by her husband and I cheered. (I know that is a bad thing to say, but I was really over her weepiness by that point) Despite these objections, Redgrave was able to make this mediocre movie interesting by his slurring performance. And isn’t that all a movie needs?