Ride the Pink Horse (1947)

Ride the Pink Horse (1947), directed by Robert Montgomery.

A quiet tough guy -- a bitter ex-soldier -- arrives on the bus. I thought he was a hit-man, but instead we discover he is after revenge and/or blackmail. His best friend was killed trying it on the same gangster.

Oddly for this sort of story, his plans go off the rails. A poor teen girl -- mysterious and kind of fey, also new in town -- attaches herself to him. He can't make contact with Mr Big, just his flunkies and femme-fatale girlfriend. He wanders down to the dive cantina and gets drunk with the local Mexicans, who -- although cautious at first -- treat him well. He'd rather crash outdoors with Pancho the carousel operator than stay at the Anglo hotel.

In the end, beaten up and stabbed, he is hallucinating and defenseless, barely remembering his mission.

I had never heard of this before it appeared on Criterion Blu-ray. Watching it:

The title is off-beat: the Pink Horse is one of the wooden ponies on the antique carousel.

Robert Montgomery directs as well as stars. He was an inventive director, pushing the techniques and conventions in ways you don't often see in this type of film. He does stick with a common noir trope: our sympathies are with the poor and downtrodden vs the rich, powerful and corrupt.

Criterion Blu-ray with a useful commentary track.