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Michael Curtiz has made some great films, yet the only one that tends
to be well received among film fans is his contender for the best movie
ever made - obviously Casablanca (and Robin Hood, to a lesser extent).
However, the man has a wealth of other influential classics under his
belt that don't tend to get the recognition that they deserve, and
Angels With Dirty Faces is one of those films. To sum the film up
easily, one would say that it is a crime drama. However; like the best
crime dramas, this one has multiple themes that elevate it from being
merely a film about crime, to being a character study, a portrait of
what it is that makes a hero and a condemnation of criminals on the
whole. The story follows Rocky Sullivan and Jerry Connolly; two young
New York thugs, the former of which is caught by the police and sent to
a reform school, where, ironically, he learns to be a criminal. The
latter escapes punishment and goes on to become a priest. The story
follows these two men as they meet up as adults and have an effect on
the lives of the kids of their old neighbourhood.
The focus of the film is always centred on the neighbourhood. This
allows Curtiz to show us the effects that Rocky's criminal endeavours
have on the kids of the neighbourhood more effectively. This sort of
narrative would be employed in later films, such as the critically
acclaimed 'City of God', and works well here too. The way the film
shows how impressionable young kids can be influenced by adults works
brilliantly, and Curtiz is able to continue this theme up until the
powerful ending. James Cagney would later go on to achieve major fame
in the incredible 'White Heat', but here he shows us what the
quintessential New York gangster would be like. His performance, in
short, is incredible and easily ranks among the best gangster roles of
all time. The rest of the cast do well in their roles, with distinct
New York accents helping to firmly place the audience in the city that
the film is taking place in. Furthermore, the film is economic in the
way it's plotted and it's also very exciting, and therefore guaranteed
to delight it's audience.
Angels With Dirty Faces is an absolute cinema classic and quite why it
isn't more famous is anyone's guess. Although not quite as good as
Casablanca, this is a major notch in Michael Curtiz's filmography and I
wouldn't have any qualms with recommending this to film fans at all.
Tags for Angels with Dirty Faces Full Movie
, Humphrey Bogart
, James Cagney
, Pat O'Brien
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