Underworld - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Underworld Reviews

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Super Reviewer
May 24, 2011
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.
JonathanHutchings
Super Reviewer
May 1, 2011
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.
rubystevens
Super Reviewer
April 30, 2008
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 out
Harlequin68
Super Reviewer
½ July 26, 2011
"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?
March 21, 2013
Caught this one on the TCM Cruise, with live musical accompaniment form the Alloy Orchestra, and I enjoyed it really well. One of the first bits of silent cinema I've really been exposed to, and well worth seeking out should you have the chance.

Rental?
January 10, 2014
A gangster who likes to help others, has one weakness, his most prized possession - his young and beautiful girlfriend Feathers. Eventually, this is what gets him in trouble especially with his most trusted friend - a literate vagrant he helped get back on his feet, who falls hopelessly in love with her, and who is also the only one along with her that can save him when he is sentenced to a hanging. Arguably the first ever 'gangster film', Underworld is a stunning early work by master Josef von Sternberg, who in this film examines lust and envy, two of his favoured themes. The art direction and cinematography are praise worthy, as they represent the romanticised lush and fast moving lifestyle of the roaring twenties to perfection. A few words must be spared for widely forgotten comedian of the time Larry Semon, who in his supporting role as a comedy sidekick delivers a surprisingly charming performance, no doubt the best of his whole career.
Harlequin68
Super Reviewer
½ July 26, 2011
"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?
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