The Public Enemy
Cagney. There is a reason why the name evokes such a connection with people after all this time. Such ferocious energy, such physical grace, all wrapped up in a man so tightly wound that he explodes with more force than a thousand tommy guns.
The film is a classic, and a surprisingly far more superior and adult film than Little Caesar which preceded it by a few months. Cagney makes his legendary bid for stardom as a vicious, sadistic, violent, charming gangster-forming the classic mold by which all others are judged. There are countless films inspired by this one, most notably several Scorsese films as Marty is a lifelong fan.
Example: The opening of Goodfellas? From here essentially. This film is 100% pure Pre-Code, full of sexual innuendos, illicit affairs, drinking, and all kinds of other general "nasties". The Public Enemy is a tightly woven drama that always works and runs on pure Cagney fuel.
Cagney is like a lightning rod, as hot as his bulging pistols as he burns his way into your subconscious.
God, that scene with Cagney in the pouring rain at night before walking in towards his doom...THAT is cinema. THAT is acting. No dialogue. No score. Just unbelievable power and tension. Overbearingly strong visuals that sweep you up in their wake.
And then there's what happens when you're the boring girlfriend and you piss off Jimmy early in the morning whilst his hangover is in full swing. ;)
4 balls out of 4...dirty rats. Masterpiece. Arguably THE gangster picture by which all others should be measured.
Here we see the opposite side of the scale. Made 4 years later in full Code enforcement, Cagney is now on the side of the law as an FBI agent in a film with none of the wit, charm, assurance, vitality, and most importantly none of the danger inherent in Public Enemy. This is pure fiction, pure Hollywood fantasy about government agents vs. crooks, but it's an enjoyable movie for what it is. It's just a waste to see so much talent go without being fully utilized. This film was reissued in the 40's with a pitiful tacked on opening where FBI agents sit down to watch a film about the "greatness of the department".
Public Enemy along with Little Caesar were banned until the mid 1950's, and were only then shown censored.
2.5 balls out of 4
VADER!? WHERE THE HELL IS MY MOCHA LATTE? -Palpy on a very bad day.
“George didn’t think there was any future in dead Han toys.”-Harrison Ford