contradictions in the male role, which are disguised in more traditional types (cowboys, swashbucklers, war heroes)’ (Dyer 1979:56). His role can be, at certain historical moments, a socially progressive one. In the 1950s he could function as an empowering figure for working-class males to symbolically dispute the moral and cultural authority of the state and its masculine ideal, ‘that paralysed and paralysing hegemony of gentlemanliness’.19 But the tough guy’s version of masculinity, exclusively realised through prowess and potency, can be limited and reactionary. As David Glover has argued, the tough guy’s need for action, speed, pursuit and violent combat, ‘an ecology of male power’, narrows the repertoire of masculinity to one that can only recognise itself through testing and conflict (Glover 1989: 7377). It is one that demands a subordination of women and of various forms of solidarity and mutuality. The real form of mutuality in these films, as I have shown, is the overpowering need for a male opponent on whom to release all the tough guy’s pent-up energies, a homosocial bonding that is deeper than any other satisfaction he can enjoy. In the more intelligent post-war British crime thrillers these contradictions are played out in ways that still have the power to involve and challenge audiences.