Underworld - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Underworld Reviews

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½ April 6, 2017
An electrifying gangster picture focusing on a rivalry between to major gangsters in Chicago Bull Weed & Meaghan. Bull Weed's right hand man is a smart guy & beginning to fall in love with Weed's girl.

Shot immaculately by Josef Von Sternberg this film has such a distinct visual flair with the aid of mood lighting and smoke.

Moves fast & packs a punch this film is quite entertaining. Clive Brook (Rolls Royce [Weed's 2IC]) really pushes the story along. An interesting Silent Gangster Film.
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.
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.

March 8, 2012
Pre-Dietrich silent film from von Sternberg is a rather rollicking gangster yarn with a couple of great set-pieces (the mobsters' ball and the final shoot-out, of course). The three or four central characters are larger than life, propelled through this dream-world (of Chicago?) by the usual blunt motives: love and jealousy (but also loyalty). A cut above yer usual silent fare (but not at a Murnau standard).
½ November 9, 2011
Josef Von Sternberg's Underworld is known as the first gangster film ever made and a very influential one. It tells the story of Bull Weed, a brash, mean spirited man who is robs and murders to get what he wants. During one of his bank robbery's he is seen by a bum, who he takes along and decides to groom into a gangster, giving him the nick name Rolls Royce. Bull Weed's woman, Feathers, stays by his side but it is clear that Bull Weed isnt the most caring man when it comes to woman either. One night Bull Weed is sent to jail, for killing the man who was after his woman, leading a budding romance to develop between Rolls Royce and Feathers. What will Bull Weed do them if he breaks out of prison? Underworld is a great silent film that really pertains a ton of action, particuarly towards the end. The music is really perfect for the film and the Bull Weed character played by George Bancroft is a pleasure to watch. His character are really is the story of the film, and his redemption by the end of the film to realize the error of his ways in treating both Feathers as more of a commodity than a love is really a beautiful series of events. There is something about silent films that just make me relaxed and warm inside. I think its just the streamlined story telling and the fact that the acting has to be very detailed. An incredibly influential film that lived up to the hype.
October 8, 2011
A brilliant gem of silent cinema. The influence this had on film is practically unfathomable.I picked this up at the Telluride Film Festival at random because I got to witness "From Morn to Midnight" with the accompaniment of the Alloy Orchestra. I loved that experience so much that I but this simply to explore the orchestra's work at more depth. It really is strange that a film that has so much importance on modern cinema is hardly ever talked about. Every scene of this film is perfectly framed by an artist who knows exactly what he wants to get across.The story is still emotional today and evokes thought about the psychology of criminals. It's an amazing piece of early cinema and worth seeking out.

Also, the runtime is wrong on this flixster page. It's a full 80 minute film.
September 15, 2011
Von Sternberg's "Underworld" is considered the precursor to "Public Enemy", "Scarface", and all the great gangster films of the 30's. Even silent, it's packed with punches, gunshots, chases, and everything gritty about the latter films which were quite controversial and daring in 1927. You have to know where it all started.
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?
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.
Super Reviewer
May 2, 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.
Super Reviewer
April 21, 2011
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
February 22, 2011
The prototypical gangster movie. A simple story told quite intricately for a silent movie.
October 24, 2010
Beautifully done piece on the extravagant and brutal loyalties of the criminal underworld. I loved the Alloy Orchestra score and Clive Brook took my breath away.
½ October 5, 2010
The first cinematic crime masterpiece and a film that would give incalculable inspiration to subsequent films in the genre from as early as 1932 (Hawks) to as late as 2006 (Scorsese). Josef von Sternberg recognized several crucial elements to a successful gangster picture before anyone else. The first was that in order for a movie about criminals to work, said criminals must be sympathetic; this triangle of characters is so powerful and so human that it is impossible not to become entangled in their drama. George Bancroft is frightening and powerful, Clive Brook is tragically humane and Evelyn Brent is a strong and demanding presence. The second element was that if people are going to pay to watch crime, the action must be fast but also tangible. Sternberg's tight close-ups and brilliant compositions put us right there between these characters. He blocks his actors so strategically that there isn't a step taken by a character that isn't meaningful, and he takes risks by having his actors looks right into his camera. A stylistic masterpiece and a dangerous but rewarding leap for criminology on celluloid.
August 30, 2010
Okay. Most people think this is the Vampires vs. Werewolves film from 2003. I promise you this isn't. This is the silent gangster film. And it's great!

The visuals take a lead in this one. I especially like the scenes of the gangsters ball and and even the simple gun fights really take off. For a silent film, it FEELS loud.

I want to watch this one again soon. I can only see my rating going higher on this one.
August 28, 2010
Josef von Sternberg finally found an audience with this massive hit from 1927, the first of a string of silent masterpieces that would all but solidify his place in film history.

Here Sternberg, working from an Oscar winning (largely altered) script by Ben Hecht, literally invents the gangster genre with his triangle of Chicago toughs (George Bancroft, Clive Brook, and moll Evelyln Brent), partying, glancing, posing, posturing the night away in a series of brilliantly lit interiors, in between jewel heists and attempted hits.

Bancroft, all gawd, smiles, and suspicions, is the hammiest of the actors, though he commands the screen whenever he needs to explode, and near the end, in an apartment shoot-out cribbed by Howard Hawks for "Scarface", when he realizes the folly of his ways, and the growing bond between Brook and Brent, he's somewhat touching, in a sacrificial, ironic way.

But that's Sternberg in a shell, a glorious surface of beauty and mayhem, with a biting core of cynicism and irony in the middle; it worked in 1927, and it's amazingly refreshing 80 years later.
½ July 31, 2009
over all a good movie but these days we a have too much of these type of movies.
July 29, 2009
I see no reason to watch this one.
July 13, 2009
Solid gangster picture that set many precedents visible from the original Scarface all the way down to the recent Public Enemies. As a good comparison, despite the fantastic sound work in Public Enemies, the suspense and character development of this film, about 80 years its senior, was far superior.

I have absolutely no problems whatsoever with Underworld - it looked great, the writing was solid, the characters were appropriately likable and unlikable, etc. Its only flaw is one it could never have foreseen - forever being below that vampire/werewolf movie when you search for it on imdb.
½ September 10, 2008
inconsistent gangster melodrama. Though there are two really incredible sequences, visually.
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