Communist agents in Canada are spying on Dr. Carl Macklin, an atomic physicist whose knowledge they want. To kidnap him, Eric Hartman, the party's top man in Montreal, offers $100,000 to a deported American criminal, Joe Victor.
Joe's former flame, Joyce Geary, is blackmailed into helping with the plan. Police Inspector Leduc of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police investigates and ends up caring for Joyce, as she does for him.
A thug working for Victor kills the scientist's secretary after using her to gain information. Leduc is taken prisoner aboard a ship as Hartman and Victor attempt to take Dr. Macklin with them to Europe.
A plea is made by Leduc to the gangster Victor, who misses his native America, to do the right thing for a change and help stop the Communists. A shootout ensues between Victor and Hartman, who end up killing one another, but Joyce's innocence is proven to the satisfaction of Leduc and the law.Edward G. Robinson as Inspector Leduc
George Raft as Joe Victor
Audrey Totter as Joyce
Peter Van Eyck as Hartman
George Dolenz as Macklin
Peter Hansen as Fred
The film was originally entitled Canada's Great Manhunt. It was inspired by a magazine article by Stephen Brott. This was turned into a story by James Benson Nablo which was optioned by Sam Bischoff, who had owned a production company with George Raft in the late 1940s, and David Diamond. Geoffrey Holmes wrote the script and George Raft and Edward G Robinson were signed to play the leads. Gloria Grahame was sought to play the female lead. Robinson and Raft had starred in a previous film together 14 years earlier, Raoul Walsh's Manpower with Marlene Dietrich.
Filming started 10 December 1954. Robinson was greylisted at the time. He paid Bezzerides $5,000 for polish Robinson's dialogue. When Raft found out about this, Raft paid the writer to perform the same function for him.
A Bullet for Joey was released in theatres in New York City on April 15, 1955. The film was released in London at the Exhibitors' Trade Show on April 7, 1955, and in Australia on March 16, 1956. A Bullet for Joey was released on Blu-ray in November 2015, and DVD by Kino Lorber Studio Classics on July 10, 2007, and November 17, 2015.
The Los Angeles Times called the film "moderately exciting".
In his book, Film Noir, Detective and Mystery Movies on DVD, John Howard Reid considered the movie dull. Slow pace, one-dimensional characters, and an unconvincing climax plague the film.
Film critic Bosley Crowther wrote in his review: "AGE cannot wither nor custom stale the infinite uniformity of Edward G. Robinson and George Raft. In A Bullet for Joey, a crime drama that came to the Palace yesterday, along with the vaudeville program, Mr. Raft solemnly appears as an outcast American gangster called back into service to do a job of kidnapping a key atomic scientist out of Canada for a "foreign power." And Mr. Robinson plays a cool inspector of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police who is assigned to uncover the suspected connivance and nip it in the bud. Considerately, we need not scan the details of Mr. Raft's laying out the job and Mr. Robinson's patient checking on him every step of the way. These are things that Mr. Raft and Mr. Robinson can act with their eyes shut—and sometimes do. (We suspect, in this instance, that the director, Lewis Allen, had his eyes shut, too.)"
The film was a box office flop.