A highly styled 'genre' film which can perhaps be seen as a pastiche of all gangster movies. Tom Reagan is the laconic anti-hero of this amoral tale which is also, paradoxically, a look at morals within the criminal underworld of the 1930s. Two rival gangs vie for control of a city where the police are pawns, and the periodic busts of illicit drinking establishments are no more than a way for one gang to get back at the other. Black humour and shocking violence compete for screen time as we question whether or not Tom, right-hand man of the Irish mob leader, really has a heart. Written by
The film never expressly states in what year it takes place. The Model A Fords seen throughout the film may provide a baseline, as that automobile was introduced in 1927, but other cars are also visible, ranging from 1926 to 1930 model years. The calendar in Johnny Casper's office could also provide a hint, but it does not appear to be reliable. The month is not visible on the calendar, but the first is shown to be on a Saturday. That Saturday is in red to indicate a holiday, and the only holiday on the 1st of the month in the US is New Years Day. However, the weather in the film certainly does not seem like winter weather in what is probably New York City. Ultimately, it seems likely that the calendar is not a useful guide. If you choose to ignore the weather, and note that the film takes place during Prohibition, the only possible years (when the 1st fell on a Saturday) are 1921 and 1927. See more »
The US flag in the mayor's office in the 1920s appears to be a 50-star flag. See more »
There are many new movies that have been released on DVD this year. Forget them, and pick up a copy of this movie. It has only recently become available on DVD. The unavailability of this movie on DVD for so many years has been a sin. I own this movie on laser disc and it is one of the reasons that I still have a laser disc player.
I cannot do a better job than the other reviewers have in pointing out what make this film so outstanding. Just let me repeat the usual: The casting is flawless; the dialogue is on the mark, with dozens of juicy bon mots; the humor is sublime; the cinematography is absolutely gorgeous; and the plot, while complex, is still comprehensible enough not to detract from the action.
This movie is as close to flawless as a movie can be.
And one more thing, this movie has nothing in common with either "Yojimbo" (which was itself a rip-off of Dashiel Hammett's "Red Harvest") or "Fistful of Dollars". Well, OK, I'll grant that they both take place in towns dominated by two strong gangs of criminals (as if that's never been the case in any other movie,) but the other plot elements and the dialogue are completely original.
**** out of ****
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