This really is a must for all fans of the Ganster film. Released in 1931, it launched the career of Edward G. Robinson and set the gold standard for any film in the genre that followed.
Telling the story of Rico and his rise from lowly enforcer to crime lord, building a reputation for psychotic violence along the way, it is both a fascinating character study and a tense and exciting thriller. Edward G. Robinson is well cast as Rico, even though the character is about as far from his own personality as it was possible to get. Despite his diminutive stature he is menacing, managing to chill you to the marrow with just a scowl. He shows both the intelligent, cold calculating side and the unfettered violent side of the character with equal facility, and makes Rico a believable construct.
As well as Robinson, there is a fine turn from Douglas Fairbanks Jr as his old friend who gets drawn into Rico's schemes and crimes, despite a desperate wish to go straight. It is a good performance that really shows the anguish of the character.
This is a tightly directed thriller, fast paced and exciting (by the standards of the time). What really makes it is some well written, well delivered pacey and hardnosed dialogue. It is hard to believe that this was made in the earliest years of the talkies, when film makers were still working out how best to make use of the new medium.
The DVD transfer is pretty good, especially for a film of this age. The sound is similarly in good condition. An all round excellent release for this excellent film. Recommended to all fans of hard boiled gangster films.
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