William Holden pauses to watch Tom Tully take a walk in The Turning Point
Right there, I thought, you had potent noir material, but there was already something odd about the film's approach. The father-son story would be plot enough for a noir if the son were the central character, but Turning Point isn't really about John Conroy. Sure, O'Brien gets plenty of screen time, including a great scene in which he interrogates a cagily indignant Begley in a televised hearing, but mostly we see him and everyone else in the film through Jerry McKibbon's eyes. That could still work, since we can still empathize with someone reunited with an old friend who finds out something terrible (Dad's betrayal) the friend doesn't know. But in short order Jerry himself becomes a betrayal, starting an affair with Amanda behind Conroy's back. It turns out, however, that Conroy isn't quite as clueless as he seems. In a nicely written scene, just as Jerry and Amanda try to convince him not to quit the investigation, John makes it clear in one sentence, without histrionics, that he's on to them both. There's something almost Arthurian about this triangle, since all three people are plainly good guys, but there's also something forced about it, since I didn't really feel much chemistry between Holden and Smith.
A demoralized Edmond O'Brien sulks despite the entreaties of his so-called friends.
For the most part, Turning Point isn't noir in the strictest visual sense. It makes effective use of locations like many noirs, but it's low on expressionistic shadows and other obvious noir devices. Director Dieterle does come up with several strong set pieces, including the shootout that kills Conroy's father, the hearing showdown between Conroy and Eichelberger, and especially the climactic sequence at the arena. Dieterle milks this for maximum suspense as a gunman lurks on the catwalk above the action, waiting for his chance to shoot McKibbon, then pursues him urgently as the crowd flows out of the arena following an abrupt knockout. Overall, the film isn't really as bad as my disappointed review may suggest, but given everyone involved, it should have been much better.