Johnny Lovo rises to the head of the bootlegging crime syndicate on the south side of Chicago following the murder of former head, Big Louis Costillo. Johnny contracted Big Louis' bodyguard, Tony Camonte, to make the hit on his boss. Tony becomes Johnny's second in command, and is not averse to killing anyone who gets in his and Johnny's way. As Tony is thinking bigger than Johnny and is not afraid of anyone or anything, Tony increasingly makes decisions on his own instead of following Johnny's orders, especially in not treading on the north side run by an Irish gang led by a man named O'Hara, of whom Johnny is afraid. Tony's murder spree increases, he taking out anyone who stands in his and Johnny's way of absolute control on the south side, and in Tony's view absolute control of the entire city. Tony's actions place an unspoken strain between Tony and Johnny to the point of the two knowing that they can't exist in their idealized world with the other. Tony's ultimate downfall may be... Written by
"This picture is an indictment of gang rule in America and of the callous indifference of the government to this constantly increasing menace to our safety and our liberty. Every incident in this picture is the reproduction of an actual occurence, and the purpose of this picture is to demand of the government: "What are you going to do about it?". The government is your government. What are YOU going to do about it? See more »
Many purists would jump at this as being the definitive "Sacrface," but so much had changed in the fifty-one years between the two movies that it is nearly impossible. Whereas the Al Pacino cult classic spanned close to three hours and included almost every imaginable cause of death, this version is a mere hour and a half, give or take a few minutes, and unlike the remake, takes place entirely in Chicago.
Made as an anti-gangster film, with a message buried under the many bodies that pile up, this is a surprisingly brutal movie for its time, and got a reputation as such. This was just before the so-called "Golden Age" of cinema, and in a time like that, chances are a movie this unapologetic wouldn't get made. But it is a masterful gangster film.
Paul Muni is Tony Camonte, a pseudo-Capone psycho who believes in doing the dirty work himself, is a sleazebag. He talks in a lisp that holds him apart from the gangsters of Cagney and Bogart as a man who, even then, seems ethnic. To boot, his "secretary" is an immigrant who is only semi-literate and can't hear people well on the phone. Boris Karloff shows up as an Irish gangster, Gaffney, who falls under Camonte's gun. Aside from an entire segment where Camonte goes seemingly from point A to point B with the same tommy gun and kills off the competition, this is a brilliant milestone in the gangster genre, and probably the best of the era. Even now, it proves what people could accomplish by mere suggestion, sparing much of the language that is in movies (and, indeed, used in real life) today.
89 of 112 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?