During the 1930s in the rough and tumble boroughs of New York City due to prohibition numerous gangs sprung up. The most notoriously violent of these gangs was the Murder Inc. of Brownsville, Brooklyn. Louie Lepke (David J. Stewart – appeared in episodes of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and The Untouchables) and Albert Anastia (Howard Smith – Death of a Salesman, Kiss of Death) are in charge of the National Crime Syndicate. Lepke finds a hitman named Abe Reles (Peter Falk – from television's Columbo), who is the leader of the feared Brownsville gang, and hires him to be the sole 'handler' of contract killings for the Syndicate. Nightclub performers Joey Collins (Stuart Whitman – These Thousand Hills, The Longest Day) and Eadie (May Britt – War and Peace) have to deal with some pressure from the mob. The lines of where society and the crime world are have become quite blurry. Joey has borrowed $300 from the mob and has to do what they ask or he will be killed. As they become more and more violent and feared there is seemingly only one cop who is willing to take a stand against them. He will use any means at his disposition in order to bring this gang down.
We think that gangs that terrorize neighbourhoods are a new phenomenon, but they have been around forever. This film is based on the gangs that 'ran' certain areas of New York during the Depression Era. It is a true-life film that director Burt Balaban (Mad Dog Coll) and Stuart Rosenberg (The Pope of Greenwich Village, The Amityville Horror) have shot in almost a documentary style, which unfortunately means that the plot/storyline is not the greatest. Also the mixture of fact and fiction is not the best. The directors should have decided whether they were doing a documentary or a dramatic reenactment. It ends up that the sections that are fact end up looking more like fiction and vice versa. Everything ends up suffering. There is also an inappropriate insertion of a doomed romance about half way in that is awkward to say the least. The acting is decent, especially Peter Falk who is quite creepy in his role as the cold-blooded hitman, but sometimes wooden.
-Fox Flix: trailers for Compulsion and The St. Valentine's Day Massacre