Most helpful positive review
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A complex gangster film
on 28 September 2008
This,without doubt,is an outstanding film, for it draws together several complex issues. Right from the start, when we are introduced to Cody Jarrett (James Cagney) Verna (Virginia Mayo) & "Big Ed" (Steve Cochran) we learn several things. Cody is subject to fits & has a mother fixation; also, "Big Ed" is his rival for gang leadership & for Cody`s wife, Verna. The U.S. law enters the story in the person of Officer Hank Fallon (Edmund O`Brien) masquerading as gang member Vic Pardoe, whose object is to obtain enough information to ensure the capture of Jarrett.
There is one sequence in which the viewer is made aware of the link between Cody & his mother. In the prison cell Jarret remarks that Ma always sees to it that he gets his full share of any robbery, & immediately the scene dissolves from Cody`s image directly onto Ma, thus emphasising their emotional bond, especially when she declares: "Get one thing clear...anything we get, Cody`s in for his full share" There is one visual point to note: all the gang members are dressed in light suits, with the exception of "Big Ed" who always seems "odd man out" these are things which are subconciously registered by the viewer.When Ma takes a vote on Cody`s share, she queries "Big Ed`s" willingness to agree, in fact it is so out of character that it arouses her suspicions & leads to Ed`s subsequent downfall.
Perhaps the most outstanding scene in the movie takes place in the prison canteen when Cody receives news of his mother`s death. He goes hysterical, & is carried out shrieking. It is a great tribute to Cagney that in a scene that might have become unintentionally funny, Cagney plays the part so perfectly, that when this film is shown commercially, the reaction of the audience is the same as the convicts on the screen: stunned silence.
We also find, to our surprise, that we are made to feel some compassion for Jarrett. When he confides to Vic that: "My old lady never had anything...always trying to put me on top `Top of the world!` she used to say" And later, when Pardoe`s true identity is revealed Cody describes how he..."treated him like a kid brother, & I was going to split fifty-fifty with a copper!, adding, "maybe they`re waiting to pin a medal on him!" and somehow, even granting that Jarrett is a madman, fully deserving to be brought to justice, one`s sympathies - for a moment - side with him, for nobody likes a Judas!
An outstanding picture.