Odd Man Out (Two Cities; Universal-International), a rare attempt to use the screen for poetic tragedy, is the story of the last eight hours in the life of an Irish revolutionist named Johnny McQueen (James Mason). Robbing a Belfast factory for party funds, Johnny unwittingly kills a man and is himself gravely wounded. In confusion and terror, his comrades abandon him. By nightfall one of the most extensive man hunts in movie history is in full swing. So is an elaborate screen allegory.
The fatally wounded fugitive hero, at large in the gnashing city like a loose bolt in a machine, is Man in the extremity of anguish and dereliction. As such, he is a quick test of the presence or absence of true charity among those with whom he collides. And among all these people, who combine with the dark city into a moral image of the modern world, very little true charity is evident.
The constable (Dennis O'Dea), representing law and justice, is a humane and intelligent policeman, but his motives are as implacably businesslike as his search. Johnny's fellow revolutionists try to rescue him (and are killed or captured in the attempt), not for his own sake but as a point of honor, because he is their leader. The girl (Kathleen Ryan) tries to help Johnny because she would rather die and if need be kill himthan endure a loveless life without him. An old priest (W. G. Fay) negotiates subtly for Johnny, because he feels that his businessa dying man's soulis the really important issue. In his journey-toward-death, Johnny does encounter moments of compassion, but the charity is as shallow as the courage that goes with it: those who will not turn him over to the police will risk nothing for him, either.
At length Johnny falls into the hands of three shoddy, half-mad symbols of three strong human drives. An artist (Robert Newton), foaming with delusions of genius, tries to paint the death in his eyes; a doctor (Elwyn Brook-Jones) patches him up for the sake of his own lost pride; the third man (F. J. McCormick) schemes to sell him to the highest bidder. Under these frenzied circumstances, the delirious hero shouts his own conversion and the story's master theme: "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass . . . and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing."