18 September 2002 | HenryHextonEsq
Somehow it doesn't satisfy.
I am a massive fan of James Cagney as an actor. I've loved some of the films he starred in, tolerated more. This one falls into the second camp. It is by no means a bad or unworthy film, but it really fails to compel.
Cagney is of course, irreproachable and effortlessly walks away with the film, but he just isn't quite as compelling a figure here as in "White Heat", "Angels with Dirty Faces" or that splendid musical, "Yankee Doodle Dandy". Perhaps it is because the character is really more predictable than most of his characters; based on the Huey Long template. There was not the sense that I was rooting for his character in the same odd way that I usually do when he is essaying a villainous part.
The film is visually quite opulent, but hardly overpoweringly. Perhaps monochrome would have better suited the film's fairly straight forward moral message. The characters, save Cagney's demagogue, are far from that interesting, and play little part, other than be part of the rural "mob" that Cagney is inciting, or part of the slick, gangster-swayed metropolitan set, who replenish Cagney's corruption.
This film just isn't compelling enough; it has a lack of interesting incident, character or dialogue, and while it is morally in a worthy cause (in the era of McCarthy) it is too small a fry in the largely incendiary career of Cagney.