The title role of Shubunka (an original name if there ever was one) is played by Barry Sullivan in his breakout leading role. He is excellent as a small time numbers racketeer who arrogantly thinks he is unstoppable. His front for the racket is a ice cream shop owned by his partner, Akim Tamiroff. Soda jerk, Harry Morgan, offers the only light moments in the film as a man of the world who wants anyone within earshot to know how he treats a real lady. An expert on the subject with little evidence as proof. In hock up to his eyeballs is John Ireland, who frequents the shop pleading with Tamiroff to give him an advance. He eventually comes to blows (literally) with Tamiroff. Ireland’s wife is played by Virginia Christine who is always pleading with him to come home for some mountain-grown coffee.
Sullivan’s infatuation with a nightclub singer, played by Belita (the real life ballerina and ice skater) takes a toll on his finances, buying her everything. Unknown to Sullivan, a rival is planning to muscle him out of business. The head muscle in this case, Sheldon Leonard. But Sullivan refuses to believe what a frightened Tamiroff tells him. Or that Belita is in on the takeover.
Sullivan’s riveting, rapid monologue in the last half is memorable. Truly told with bullet force. The low camera angle pointed toward the checkerboard ceiling makes him appear bigger than he is. It is a reality check for the viewer. Angrily he comes down on the shop cashier, Joan Lorring, in an effort to justify his lifestyle to all beneath him. Viewers soon realize that this cynical character is rather insecure and all his “accomplishments” are the result of tough talk and limited resources with no lasting impact.