Bad Day At Black Rock is one of those rarely seen yet excellent thrillers. Spencer Tracy leads an all-star cast in this John Sturges movie about a man who comes to a small town to accomplish a duty and discovers something sinister is going on. Set in post World-War II America, Bad Day At Black Rock is a mystery and western in civilian clothing and a comment on American post-war society.
Spencer Tracy is his usual contained, brilliant self as John J. Macreedy, a one-armed man who arrives in Black Rock where the train has not stopped for the last four years. His presence in this small town is immediately met with suspicion and the locals, led by Reno Smith (Robert Ryan) quickly try to intimidate him. What really gets to them about Macreedy is he is very, very slow to rile and this, in the eyes of Reno Smith and his henchmen (Lee Marvin and Ernest Borgnine) is even more suspicious.
Macreedy quickly figures out the town is hiding something and eventually figures out the hostility he feels is related to his coming to Black Rock to talk to a Japanese farmer named Komako.
This is a slow-paced but very tense mystery directed by John Sturges of The Geat Escape, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, and The Magnigicent Seven fame. The slow reveal of what happened and why Spencer Tracy's character is so fearless in front of such clear threats keeps the viewer interested. The last scene is, in my mind, a bit schmaltzy and a fake happy ending but this does not detract from the brilliance of Bad Day At Black Rock.