One of noir’s most soulful and poetic expressions of hope and redemption – two commodities usually in short supply in the fatalistic genre – Nicholas Ray’s On Dangerous Ground begins hard and bitter, only to slowly transform into something gentle and poignant. Detective Jim Wilson (Robert Ryan) is so repulsed by the seedy urban underworld he’s forced to inhabit that, his face frozen in a disgusted grimace, he seems ready to explode – until, that is, he does, using clenched fists to beat a confession out of an uncooperative crook. Sent north to help investigate the murder of a local man’s (Ward Bond) son, Wilson instead finds therapeutic help himself, which comes in the compassionate guise of the suspect’s blind sister Mary (the always radiant Ida Lupino). It’s an exceedingly melodramatic turn of events, and yet Ray’s graceful handling of the material turns potential schmaltz into blissful sentimentality, the director beautifully juxtaposing the dark, gritty shadows of his opening’s metropolitan streets with the soft white snow of the countryside. Vividly visualizing inner torment is Ray’s specialty, and the early encounters between Wilson and Mary, as well as a series of climactic close-ups, prove so moving that, even when the plotting eventually becomes a tad creaky, the outpouring of pained, plaintive emotion is nothing short of overpowering.