Public Enemy, The (1931)

 

James Cagney, Gangster extraordinaire, but picture him dancing in a sailor suit.
James Cagney, Gangster extraordinaire, but picture him
dancing in a sailor suit.

Genre: Action Gangster Crime Drama

Starring: James Cagney (The Roaring Twenties; Footlight Parade), Jean Harlow (Reckless; Hell's Angels)

Directed By: William A. Wellman (Beau Geste; The Ox-Bow Incident),

Overview: Prohibition means big bucks for Tom and Matt, but with every great opportunity comes great risk. This is their story.

Divider Gangster
Performance:

James Cagney is one of the world's few actors whose presence is... omnipresent. There's just something about the way he delivers his lines that commands people to automatically like what he's in, and Cagney is certainly becoming one of my favorites. Everyone else in this is great, except for the way-melodramatic Donald Cook, who plays our anti-hero's straight-and-narrow brother.
Rating: 8

Cinematography:

There's a machine gun ambush scene which used a real machine gun and live ammo. There's something to be said about a gangster movie that uses real guns, my friend. Besides that, this is ripe with suspense and silhouetted shootouts in the rain. When you see themes and images that you've seen dozens of times and they still haven't gotten old, you quickly learn what the world 'Classic' means.
Rating: 8

Script:

"You're a swell dish! I think I'm gonna go for you!"

The Noir elements of this script are so great that it had me wondering if it was simply a sign of the times or if it was way out there on purpose, Sin City style. The decision I came to was that it didn't matter, since the script is so right for James and his underworld crew that you'll be trying to pull off the accent because everything they said was so cool.
Rating: 8

Plot:

Granted, the end was a little abrupt, but the tale itself was original while still being familiar. Those proclaiming to be Gangster/Noir fans but who haven't seen this would most likely get thrown on the ground, surrounded and kicked about the head and face, all while being called 'Poser'. This is such definitive of the ganger genre that it was featured in an episode of "The Sopranos", while Tony chuckled at the moral lesson it tried to teach.
Rating: 8

Mood:

This movie is ripe with 'the look'. Rolls Royces driven by men in pinstripe suits and fedoras, gritty dialogue, Bostonian accents... it's a real smash-up tale of the rise and danger of the 20s prohibition-busting gangsters, with a nice couple of subplots to keep you entertained, not to mention all the face-slapping going on.
Rating: 9

"Why yes dear I WOULD love some freshly squeezed grapefruit juice..."
"Why yes dear I WOULD love some freshly squeezed grapefruit juice..."

Overall Rating: 82% (A Spectacle For All To See)
Aftertaste:

The only problem I had with this movie were the occasional slow bits, where the mother threw in her two-cents, or during the beginning when we saw these characters while they were kids, the child actors were truly weak, but those short moments aside, it was really inspirational, really fun, really repertoire. You'll be glad to have seen it, for sure.

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Still not convinced he said swell...

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