This is one of the grittiest of the pre-Production Code features. It is important to realize that just two years later, with the implementation of the rewritten Production Code in 1934, this film could not have been made.
As with any piece of popular entertainment that is nearly 70 years old, there are going to be dated elements. What is more important is how relatively modern this film feels, especially compared to the films made under the Production Code after 1934. The story is a hard slice of life, and it will not suit all tastes. This is especially true for those who have been too conditioned by Production Code features and television.
The ending has been compared to Sam Peckinpah's THE WILD BUNCH and Don Siegel's DIRTY HARRY, and not without cause. However, try to imagine yourself as a member of the original theatrical release audience in 1932. There would have been very little to prepare you for it, apart from DOORWAY TO HELL, LITTLE CAESAR, PUBLIC ENEMY, and SCARFACE. The difference here is that the story is told from the point of view of the men in law enforcement. It focuses on something that was common knowledge at the time, that prohibition had corrupted law enforcement far beyond the scope of anything the public had ever known.
The remedy for corruption that this film prescribes is very strong medicine indeed. You may not like it, but I defy you not to think about it for a long time after you've seen it.
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