The police – we love ’em, we hate ’em. They give us stinkin’ traffic tickets, but they get the bad guys, in the movies. They beat up protesting hippies, but they beat up striking workers sometimes too. In Railroaded (1947), we have an ambiguous portrait of police power: mindless engine of injustice for the weak; saving avengers for the good.
A murderous thug named Duke decides to take his boss for a few grand by knocking off a few of his own gambling joints. Duke’s an enterprising fellow, and Mr. Big has more money than he knows what to do with.
Meanwhile, Rosie and her family discuss the latest news in town, about how some poor guy got a raw deal from the cops. Rosie does not like cops! Her kid brother differs, saying “Maybe some people need a going over!” Yeah, that’s it. Beat the truth out them. That was before Duke carefully frames him for the robbery and incidental murder. (Elsewhere in noir, not here, the propensity of the officers of the law beat up likely suspects and ignore troublesome details to get a quick conviction is treated quite graphically.)
Hugh Beaumont, long before Leave it to Beaver fame, plays the good cop, Mickey, while a suitable partner plays the bad cop. Mickey is all reason and evidence – his partner is straightforward: “They all say they’re not guilty.” Rosie decides to get close to Duke to find out what really happened. Does she know what she’s getting into, or is she just incredibly dumb?
Along the way, Duke deals with his floozy partner who is too partial to booze. He can’t count on her keeping her mouth shut.
At one point, Rosie confronts the floozy, demanding to know why she’s lying to help frame her kid brother. A catfight ensues, which Duke enjoys from a hiding place. Rosie may have family values, but she can get down and dirty too.
Finally, the kid is freed, Duke and his accomplices are all dead, and Mickey gets the girl. Does she still hate cops? “Well, I guess you have to make a living somehow. Yes, I’ve changed my mind!” Did the system work? Does this prove that it’s still broken? Very ambiguous – kid brother was on an express train to the gas chamber, and Mickey was the engineer until he got curious about some details.