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A psychopathic criminal with a mother complex makes a daring break from prison and leads his old gang in a chemical plant payroll heist. Shortly after the plan takes place, events take a crazy turn.
The simple fact is that Mr. Cagney has made his return to a gangster role in one of the most explosive pictures that he or anyone has ever played.Raoul Walsh's Freudian film is one of the fastest and toughest crime-gangster films ever made. Its archetypal influence on later films like Goodfellas and the Al Pacino Scarface is striking, even if we can never again experience how new and bold it was back in its day....
Story about a group of gangsters, one of whom has an odd mother fixation. Enjoyable, although not nearly as good as people think. Well acted by Cagney but the rest of the cast is mediocre.
A masterclass in pacing. Not a second of this movie is wasted, each scene only adds intriguing complications to the plot. Cagney is exactly the kind of terrifying energy the movie needed.
A superior representation of the extremities in criminal behavior and advancement and cunning tactics of law enforcement.
An absolutely fabulous crime drama with James Cagney in probably his most iconic role. Faultless pacing and a character study depth that is rare for this era of filmmaking.
This gangster film has it all - well-planned heists, cold-blooded murders, fast cars, double-crosses, snappy dialog, sophisticated criminals, and just as sophisticated cops. It's very smart, and Director Raoul Walsh keeps us on our toes without wasting a single moment in telling this story. Most of all, it has James Cagney, who is just fantastic. The film is both dark both in how it's shot, a classic film noir, and in its tone, as Cagney's character is sociopathic, wracked by migraines, and possibly insane. He is supported by a great cast, including Margaret Wycherly in the memorable role as his mother, whose toughness and depravity is gradually revealed. Edmond O'Brien is also strong in the role of the undercover G-man.
One theme in the film is how easily (and violently) criminals will betray one another. Another is how advanced forensic and crime-fighting technology was in 1949, which is both impressive and may make you smile. The two of those put together serve as a strong anti-crime message, likely influenced by the production code, and yet, the film is gritty and pushes boundaries, so that it doesn't feel like a morality tale. Character motivations feel authentic. There are several iconic moments, the ending of course, but also Cagney returning and surprising his wife (Virginia Mayo) in the garage, and later staring at a rival (Steve Cochran) through the crack of a door. He is absolutely chilling when angry, and one can't help but be impressed by the great range he showed over his career. If you're in the mood for action and a dark crime film, 'White Heat' is very satisfying.
White Heat is a film noir about a group of thieves who rob a train, but end up killing some people during the heist so they have to go into hiding. I like heist movies but these arent complex or interesting robberies, they simply hold up people. And from the very beginning James Cagney is set up as brutal, heartless, and a little psychotic. He probably should not have been the main character of this movie, because he's entirely unsympathetic.
The hero of the film, and the one I wish the whole movie focused on, was played by Edmond OBrien. He comes in as an undercover police officer, and his struggle to earn Cagneys trust and avoid being suspected is the most compelling part of White Heat. Sadly, the movie kept almost all the attention on Cagney to the point that I kept losing track of which guy was OBrien. Late in the movie his role becomes a bit more active and that's when I was most locked into the story.
I have this messed up issue with liking movies about criminals, but only when they are fun or likable people. In White Heat they aren't pleasant. The crooks are vicious, and they even backstab one another regularly. So I never cared about them, I just wanted them to get caught. I think they tried to make us feel for Cagney with the mother issues and his mental breaks, but it didn't click for me. There wasn't anything in White Heat that actively annoyed me, but it was fairly lackluster. I couldn't stop thinking that they had the potential to do something better.
Cagney makes this film. But it was drawn out trying to decide whether it was a psychological crime thriller and a display of modern police investigations. 1001 movies to see before you die.
Classic. James Cagney at his best.
Not quite as good a film as I remember, but a good look over the old mobster movies.