The Beast of the City - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Beast of the City Reviews

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Antonius Block
Super Reviewer
½ May 14, 2016
This is a film that is for the most part mundane, tedious, and pretentious, and the only reason to watch it is to see the Jean Harlow, who is anything but those things.

Walter Huston plays a police officer who is Ivory Soap pure, and who vows to clean up the city after he's promoted to chief of police. Unfortunately, a major problem with the film is there is no effective counterbalance to his role. There are 'bad guys' of course, and a few requisite chase and shootout scenes, but their presence is tepid, and there certainly is no 'beast of the city' that the title would suggest.

Harlow, on the other hand, is sensational in the roll of the gangsters' moll who seduces the brother of Huston's character, who is also a cop. The scenes of her reclining back on a chaise lounge, and later swaying her body in an eastern style dance are absolutely electric. In a prelude to 'The Red-Headed Woman' which would appear later in the same year, when he grabs her by the arm and says "You don't like to be hurt, do ya?", she slowly drawls, "Oh I don't know ... it's kinda fun sometimes if it's done in the right spirit."

Unfortunately, that's just about it. There's police procedure, we see Huston at home, we see him lecturing fellow officers (zzzz), and we have a typical courtroom trial near the end. Oh, if you're a Mickey Rooney fan, you may like to see him in a small part at age 11; that was somewhat cute.

I won't spoil the ending but have to say it's horrible, not just because of what happens, but because of how illogical and inconsistent it is. It's also highly melodramatic, and a bookend to the beginning of the film, which has a quote from President Herbert Hoover extolling the virtues of the police and their need for better support. If you think about the actions of the police in the film however, you may find yourself a little puzzled. It's just a bad movie with one bright spot, Harlow.
½ March 7, 2016
Gangster movie from the cop's point of view. A little melodramatic.
jjnxn
Super Reviewer
November 1, 2013
Overblown antique that would be forgotten except for fans of Huston were it not for the presence of Jean Harlow in the cast. In her last supporting role before Red Headed Woman moved her to the top of the MGM pecking order she is cheap, brassy and sexual in a way that would disappear once the Hays Code went into effect in a few years. As for the rest of the film, it has pieces of dialogue that are wildly inappropriate in both racial and feminist context but were standard at the time. Huston's performance is variable, mostly good but with some ham-fisted touches but he is subtlety itself compared to Tully Marshall as the defense attorney who is so florid during one of his speeches it's impossible to keep a straight face. The climax is another piece of over the top absurdity but if you're a Harlow fan the film is worth watching.
November 1, 2013
Good crime drama, with Walter Huston as a hard-nosed police chief, and Wallace Ford as his less hard-nosed detective brother. When gangster's moll, Jean Harlow, leads Ford astray, it sets up a conflict between the cops and criminals trying to run the city. Harlow is a memorable standout, despite a relatively small part, and Huston gives steely determination to his role as an incorruptible figure of law-and-order.
½ October 14, 2012
"The Beast of the City" is a good film, but its confusing narrative and editing detracts from its greatness.
August 19, 2010
A pretty amazing relic of it's time! Walter Huston plays a cop trying to get rid of the criminal element of the city (headed by Jean Hersbolt!) and finds it's not so easy, especially when his brother gets tied up in it as well (you would be too if Jean Harlow was seducing you). Just FILLED with amazing camerawork, dialogue and lots of pre-code giddiness, this should be a must-see for all you film noir buffs. Also the ending is pretty much the most amazing thing ever. One of the best movies I've seen this year!!
½ February 19, 2010
Excellent early crime drama. The cast is terrific. Jean Harlow shines as a gangster?s moll, Walter Huston does a great job and Wallace Ford is at his best as a hard drinking police detective assigned to entrap Harlow. Well photographed, great snappy dialogue and a very interesting story that moves along quick and easy. look for a very young Mickey Rooney.
½ February 19, 2010
76/100. Excellent early crime drama. The cast is terrific. Jean Harlow shines as a gangster's moll, Walter Huston does a great job and Wallace Ford is at his best as a hard drinking police detective assigned to entrap Harlow. Well photographed, great snappy dialogue and a very interesting story that moves along quick and easy. look for a very young Mickey Rooney.
½ June 6, 2009
An impressive crime flick from pre-code MGM, with no holds barred. Walter Huston plays a maverick cop, decades before Dirty Harry. The highlights for me were a terrific performance from the legendary Jean Harlow as the archetypal moll, and a breathtaking closing scene. Some of the other actors are less engaging though. Not on a par with the classic Warner Brothers gangster movies, but well worth a look for anyone who loves the genre.
½ June 4, 2009
People who think that all classic films are uptight and neutered will be shocked by Beast of the City and its grittiness. Though it may lack the blood and gore of modern films, it's just as violent as a lot of the movies being made today. It's filled with great performances, incredible direction, and a stunning pessimism.
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