“Price and Laughton make a formidable pair of heavies in this otherwise feeble thriller shot on a cheaply rigged-up corner of the MGM backlot. Taylor isn’t up to moral dilemma as a US government agent sent to crack illicit aircraft engine trading in the Caribbean, yet tempted by a lucrative cash offer and the irresistible charm of café chanteuse Gardner.”
– Time Out Film Guide
You would think a movie boasting the talent invested here by MGM just couldn’t miss. But it does. The Bribe which flopped at the box-office never gets off the ground until the end with some pyrotechnical wizardry. We have an a-list production team in Director Robert Z. Leonard and DP Joseph Ruttenberg, supplied with a ripping story, a good script, an exotic latin locale, and a score from Miklós Rózsa. Robert Taylor is a jaded chain-smoking war vet turned undercover-cop, Ava Gardner the angelic wife of a lush moonlights as a sultry cabaret singer, Charles Laughton is a scruffy low-life with bad feet, and Vincent Price is the suave villain.
It starts off noir with Taylor’s cop sweating out a tropical storm in his hotel-room with a dame on his mind – you know because there is his voice-over. He can’t trust the woman but wants her bad. To keep her he has to go over to the other side, and a bribe offered by Laughton as Price’s voluble emissary is an added incentive to go over. We then segue into a long flashback to establish what he is doing in a hotel on an island off the coast of South America. Taylor is wooden and a drag on the story which moves too slowly and with little tension. Gardner is eminently watchable and convincing. Her single cabaret outfit is sensuous and quite revealing, but she is no Gilda. Laughton and Price give their roles a sardonic edge, with Laughton nicely hamming it up as a sloven conniver. When the flashback is over towards the end we hit noir territory again.
What saves the film from obscurity is the literally explosive climax, an imaginatively choreographed and technically daring shootout at night. This tour-de-force noir denouement is a blast!