There are many films in which we find ourselves cheering for the bad guys…somehow they are more appealing than the good guys. "Kansas City Confidential"'s baddies are most certainly goodies. They are fun to watch onscreen and make the film that much better. You are left on the edge of your seat wanting to find out if the head bad guy is gonna pull off his elaborate scheme. Admittedly there are some fairly implausible moments in the film, but due to the overall high quality you let them slide.
The film is a low budget film noir, but ranks just under some of the best film noir films ever made due to the good acting and interesting story. This despite the fact that it was made towards the end of the height of the film noir era. Director Phil Karlson (Kid Galahad, Ben) has made a film without many bells and whistles but he paces it as such there are always tense moments despite the fact that you know who the bad guys are from the very beginning. The tension is kept at a high level throughout as such it is the type of film that you can watch more than once.
An unhappy ex-cop, Tim Foster (Preston Foster – My Friend Flicka – 1943, Norht West Mounted Police), along with the help of three sidekicks, plans the perfect crime. He is going to stage a million dollar bank robbery in which he will double cross his accomplices and frame an innocent man for the crime. Joe Rolfe (John Payne – Miracle on 34th Street – 1947, The Razor's Edge), a truck driver, is to be the patsy. Though the cops want to arrest him for the crime they finally have to let him go due to a lack of evidence. Rolfe does everything to try and clear his name and also wants revenge on the thieves. To make things very sticky he finds himself falling in love with the lead crook's daughter, Helen Foster (Coleen Gray – appeared in episodes of Emergency! and Bonanza). The trail of clues leads Rolfe to Mexico and involves thugs and corrupt police officers.