Film Review – Angels With Dirty Faces (1938)

Angels With Dirty Faces

1938

Director: Michael Curtiz

Whaddya’ hear whaddya’ say?”

 

One of the genre’s most renowned works, Angels With Dirty Faces is a classic gangster film which gives James Cagney one of his most memorable roles, and which makes a true attempt to present something different and take a new look at the role of gangsters in a post-prohibition society.

Released in 1938 and directed by Casablanca and Yankee Doodle Dandy director Michael Curtiz, the film centres around Rocky Sullivan (Cagney), a life-long tough guy who has spent lift in and out of various prisons since childhood, and the story picks up following his latest prison release, having taken a fall for a $100,000 armed robbery so that his ‘associate’, a crooked lawyer called Jim Frazier (played by a young Humphrey Bogart) can set up a criminal outfit with the proceeds from their past endeavours, only to find himself double-crossed and eventually forced to blackmail his gang in order get his ‘cut’, setting him up for inevitable conflict amongst his former associates. Continue reading

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Film Review – Smart Money

Smart Money

1931

Director: Alfred E. Green

The one and only collaboration between Edward G Robinson and James Cagney, Smart Money is an early entry into the gangster era, released on the coattails of 1931’s Little Caesar and The Public Enemy. A bit of an overlooked classic, due to the shift in focus in subject matter, and featuring less controversial elements than the aforementioned films included, it stands up as a film worth revisiting for any fan of the genre.

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Film Review: Bugsy

Bugsy

Director: Barry Levinson

1991

Based on the life of legendary gangster Benjamin ‘Bugsy’ Siegel (not to be confused with ‘Bugs’ Moran), Bugsy tells the story of Siegel’s ambitious plans to create an oasis in the desert – the city that eventually became Las Vegas – as well as the mafia’s key role in funding and developing that dream, alongside showing the beginning and tragic end of his infamous relationship with Hollywood actress Virginia Hill.   Continue reading

Film Review – The Killing

 

The Killing

1956

Director: Stanley Kubrick

“You like money. You’ve got a great big dollar sign there where most women have a heart.”

Known for over-the-top, extravagant (yet inherently brilliant) films such as A Clockwork Orange, The Shining and 2001: A Space Odyssey, it seems strange to think that Stanley Kubrick started out in the world of film noir. Yet that is indeed what he did, and his main contribution, 1956’s The Killing, is one of the highlights of noir’s later years. Continue reading

Film Review – White Heat

White Heat

1949

Director: Raoul Walsh

After a decade of mixed successes and independent ventures, White Heat marks James Cagney’s return to the Warner Brothers’ studio (not his first, mind) and the style of films which made his name through the 1930s. Released ten years after his last big crime picture, 1939’s excellent The Roaring Twenties (reviewed here), and which itself was also directed by Raoul Walsh, White Heat shows Cagney giving more heart and soul into a role than any he had played previously. No longer the fresh-faced youngster of The Public Enemy, here he is older, tougher and more outright scary than anyone might have expected from him. Continue reading

Film Review – Key Largo

Key Largo

1948

Director: John Houston

“You don’t like it, do you Rocco, the storm? Show it your gun, why don’t you? If it doesn’t stop, shoot it..”

Key Largo is the fourth and final film starring the legendary ‘Bogart & Bacall’ pairing (both on screen and in life), following on from 1944’s To Have and Have Not,1946’sThe Big Sleep, and 1947’s Dark Passage. Based on a 1939 play, the plot this time round is pretty simple, avoiding the murder-mystery elements of the previous two movies and focusing instead on building up tension between a select group of characters in an enclosed, claustrophobic environment.  Bogart plays the role of Frank McCloud, a WWII veteran vising the father and wife (played by Bacall) of his deceased war buddy. They own a small hotel out on Key Largo, an island located down in the Florida Keys. The only complication he finds upon getting there is that the hotel has been taken over by a small gang of hoodlums, a drunken nightclub crooner, a captured police officer, and an unseen mob boss, later revealed as Johnny Rocco (played by Little Caesar star Edward G. Robinson) – a notorious hoodlum previously deported from American and trying to smuggle his way back in, alongside carrying out a deal with some local crooks for the delivery of counterfeit money. Unfortunately for all involved, a hurricane is making its way to Key Largo that same night, causing the residents to buckle in for the night, hoping for the storm to pass before being (quite literally) blown away – be it from the storm or each other. Continue reading