Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
No Top Critics Tomatometer score yet...
A ruthless gangster busts out of prison to get revenge upon his moll and his right-hand-man, whom he wrongfully suspects of having an affair. This crime melodrama is the one that launched the gangster film genre in Hollywood and features plenty of tommy gun battles between gangsters and police. It begins with the crime lord's rise to power and ends in a terrible shoot out.
No Friends? Inconceivable! Log in to see what your friends have to say.Login
Critic Reviews for Underworld
There's a wallop right through and yet the film retains romance, clicks not a little on comedy and even whitewashes itself with a 'moral.'
Largely through the competent work of Messrs. Bancroft and Brook, Mr. von Sternberg gives a better idea of his powers as a director.
The film radiates total confidence in its own means and methods, and the themes are wholly Sternberg's.
The first full-fledged gangster movie and still an effective mood piece.
von Sternberg's visual style and the art direction by German émigré Hans Dreier elevate Underworld into something more than a run-of-the-mill crime picture
Sternberg's direction is both classical and modern, with an expressive approach to storytelling and his distinctive visual style already apparent...
The real world was not yet ready for a full-blown gangster drama in 1927.
Josef von Sternberg's Underworld is a fascinating early cornerstone of both the director's worldview and the gangster genre.
A great silent gangster film which had considerable influence on the classic crime dramas of the early 1930s.
Audience Reviews for Underworld
A really good gangster drama, it was actually pretty funny in some scenes too, I enjoyed it. The story has excitement, drama, and romance. The actors are good. The movie's got good cinematography too. If you like gangster movies, I'd recommend checking this one out.More
Underworld is unquestionably the impetus of the "gangster film." Directed by one of the greatest visionaries of the silent era, Josef von Sternberg, this film was audacious and provocative for its time (so much so that Paramount only released it in one theater in New York, convinced that audiences would hate it). The thought of filming unfiltered violence, of glamorizing the mob world, of fleshing out and even showing sympathy to criminals was simply unheard of at the time. Granted, Underworld isn't as flamboyantly violent as some of the famous crime fllms of the '30s and '40s, but there are a number of stylistic touches that mark it as a definite progenitor of those films. For instance, just before the climactic gun battle Bull takes a sympathetic interest in an orphaned kitten, a motif reprised in the classic noir This Gun For Hire. Also, the Coens lifted this exact narrative structure for Miller's Crossing.
Of course, there are von Sternberg's trademarks all over this film: the soft focus for emphasis, revealing close-ups, the expressionistic lighting, the heightened editing patterns, etc. He directs this film was an assured confidence -- which is kind of astonishing considering how much ground he was breaking. Those who enjoy the prohibition-era gangster films may be hesitant to watch a silent film without the trademark colorful dialogue of a James Cagney or Edward G. Robinson, but don't worry, this film more than makes up for it. Tough, tense, and tightly-written, every gangster film you've ever seen owes a serious debt to Underworld.
really stylish and fun gangster picture, one of the very first. in fact we've seen this story dozens of times since. from a script by ben hecht that was so good he borrowed large parts himself for scarface a few years later. well worth checking outMore
"Underworld" starts with Bull Weed(George Bancroft) robbing another bank which is celebrated by a fan, the Rolls Royce(Clive Brook) of Bums, just outside. In return, Bull takes him in and cleans him up. All of which is necessary before he takes him to meet his moll, Feathers(Evelyn Brent), at a bar to have a good time. But Buck Mulligan(Fred Kohler), a rival of Bull's, shows up to try and ruin things for everybody.
"Underworld" gets off to a slow, awkward start before building to a memorable climax. What the movie is most concerned with is the concept of loyalty amongst the criminal classes where it is an even more valuable commodity than gold or friendship, for that matter. In this shadow world, it is complicated by the fact that these criminals are putting on a facade to convince the police and public that they are respectable.(Notice Buck's flower shop.) With all of that going on, it's hard for the hangers-on to tell how real the emotions sometimes are. Alternately, the criminals don't even try to fool each other, as the bribing for the queen of the ball is totally out in the open. And when Rolls Royce says he is not interested in women, is he saying what I think he is saying?
Discuss Underworld on our Movie forum!