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Posted October 1, 2010
"White Heat" Is Red Hot!
The connection between real-life criminals and the movies goes back at least as far as the time Al Capone's henchmen went to question screenwriter Ben Hecht about the script for the original "Scarface" (1932). And it's no secret that some more recent films have had mob backing. But filmmakers who try to tell the story from the criminal's point of view run two risks. If they are too true to the vile, stupid, petty, boring, and squalid nature of most crime, they can turn off an audience. But if they put on too much gloss and glamour, they lose all credibility. Even by contemporary standards, "White Heat" is a shockingly brutal movie, but with one great scene following another, it builds tremendous momentum. James Cagney plays Cody Jarrett, a sociopathic train robber who gets terrible headaches, kills blithely, and loves his mother (who's also in his gang). While he is in prison, another member of the gang steals his wife and murders his mother, which tears him completely off his hinges. Cagney's "Ma's dead!" breakdown in the prison's dining room is a classic of Oedipal dementia. Edmond O'Brien gives a subtle performance as the dislikable heel of an undercover agent who helps Cagney out of prison to avenge his mother's death. His creepy blandness somehow makes Cagney's righteous madness seem noble by contrast. The tension builds inexorably down the stretch, and when Cagney explodes--literally--at the end, it is not just fitting, it is the logical conclusion. [filmfactsman]Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 2, 2003
The Apex of the Gangster Film Genre
It just doesn't get any better than this folks. The 1940's had more than it's fair share of outstanding film noir and gangster performances, but it almost seems as if the whole decade of crime dramas were building up to this one from the beginning. It is the ultimate. Cagney is a phenomenon, and he makes the screen sizzle with intensity as he renders color, life, and realism to the character of Cody Jarrett. The action starts just after the opening credits and doesn't let up until the final explosive, white-knuckled climax. With the dawn of the 50's and the end of James Cagney's gangster roles, this is really the last great film of an era. There have continued to be bright spots in the crime drama genre, but nobody will ever recreate the era which produced this blinding, intense cinematic gem.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 8, 2010
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