Sidney Poitier and Tony Curtis are two escaped prisoners, handcuffed together in their interracial flight from the law. The two are angry, hateful, and untrusting, but they must learn to work together if they are to be free. Maybe the metaphor seems obvious, but in 1958, it was probably just what America needed. Kramer adds a subplot with a sheriff and a trooper fighting for jurisdiction that could stand for the nation’s two reactions to racial integration. Aside from the metaphor, the friction between Poitier and Curtis is great, and the writing is clear and sharp. The action and tension of their run is entertaining, and their ultimate friendship and acceptance of each other is sincere. It’s not high art, but it is a well-made, well-rounded movie.
The Defiant Ones***
published September 4, 2000