Johnny O'Clock (Dick Powell) is a junior partner in a posh casino with Guido Marchettis (Thomas Gomez), but is senior in the eyes of Nelle (Ellen Drew)—Guido's wife and Johnny's ex. This love triangle leads to a web of complications, leaving Police Inspector Koch (Lee J. Cobb) to unravel the threads of deceit and a murdered casino employee's sister (Evelyn Keyes) to tug on Johnny's heartstrings before it's too late.
Three years after song-and-dance man Dick Powell reshaped his nice-guy image by playing hard-boiled gumshoe Phillip Marlowe in Murder My Sweet, he returned to film noir with this crime-based thriller. Johnny O'Clock (Dick Powell) and his partner Pete Marchettis (Thomas Gomez) operate a gambling casino that has seen better days. Chuck Blayden (Jim Bannon), a cop on the take, wants in on the casino, and he makes friends with Pete while trying to convince him that Johnny, the smarter of the two, should go. When Chuck's girlfriend Harriet (Nina Foch) is found dead, a supposed suicide, his sister Nancy (Evelyn Keyes) smells a rat, especially after Chuck skips town. Nancy is convinced that her sister was murdered, and she asks Johnny to help her prove it. Johnny, who already has a number of women in his life – including Nelle (Ellen Drew), Pete's wife – figures that one more can't hurt and agrees to help her. But Police Inspector Koch (Lee J. Cobb), convinced that Johnny and Pete were behind Harriet's death, is making it hard for Johnny to do much investigating, and matters get worse when Chuck's body is found floating in the river. Screenwriter Robert Rossen made his directorial debut with this film, 14 years later, he would return to this film's tough, gritty style for his best picture.
Inspired by a UK bankcard ad and daring to encroach on the shadow of the Austin Powers franchise, this Bond film satire may well end up as The Spoof That Got Left in the Cold. But in perfect contrast to star Rowan Atkinson's broad physical humor, composer Edward Shearmur delivers a deliciously deadpan musical score that skewers the 007 canon from twangy-guitar main theme to romantic Euro interludes and action-packed chases. Anchored by Robbie Williams' suitably earnest mock Bond-song "A Man For All Seasons" and seasoned with evocative tracks of Moloko's electronica and the suitably named Bond's classics-meets-worldbeat sensibilities, Shearmur's score brings it all to a satisfying conclusion on "Agent No. 1," where the former Pink Floyd/Shakespeare's Sister sideman showcases his own considerable synth and keyboard skills.