A man visits his war buddy's family hotel and finds a gangster running things. As a hurricane approaches, the two end up confronting each other.A man visits his war buddy's family hotel and finds a gangster running things. As a hurricane approaches, the two end up confronting each other.A man visits his war buddy's family hotel and finds a gangster running things. As a hurricane approaches, the two end up confronting each other.
I was led to this film by my mother, who called it one of her favorites from Bogie (another being "The African Queen") and now I can see why. Leave it to John Huston, the man who was bold enough to make a true adaptation of Dashiell Hammet's "The Maltese Falcon", to give us a tightly woven drama that never feels forced. Bogie's Frank McCloud is probably the most silent of all the strong-silent types he ever played, barely saying more than is necessary for the scene he's in. Such reticience leaves some large blanks for the audience to fill; though he says that he doesn't care one way or another, I really don't believe him. The feeling I get the entire time he's in the clutches of Johnny Rocco's gang is that he's just waiting for his moment. After all, you don't survive WWII's Italian campaign and not know when it's best to stay still and when it's best to make your play. That's why he threw away the gun offered to him by Rocco; no way was Rocco's gang just going to let their boss be gunned down even if the deck was stacked in Rocco's favor. The murders of the deputy and the Indians on the lam just adds to the need to take care of business.
I was a little disappointed to see Bacall in such a minor role (it still had to be better than what she was given, sans Bogie, after this film, from reports I've heard), but her spitting in Rocco's face is an undeniably powerful moment. As for Edward G. Robinson, one of Hollywood's original tough guys imported from Bucharest, Romania, he literally runs away with the part of Johnny Rocco, the former big-shot with delusions of grandeur. He's a casually vicious, ruthless fount of hate, bitter over his fallen status and hungering for a comeback. But he still fails to draw an important lesson from his soused ex-galpal: times change and not necessarily for the better. He may have defied a ton of police in his day or gun down a deputy in this one, but it still doesn't change the fact that the outside world (nicely symbolized by the hurricane) can and will eat him alive without the slightest trace of indigestion. All Rocco is is a dinosaur: proud, strong, but too stupid to realize that his kind have become extinct.
In fact, that may very well be why McCloud was such a natural match for Rocco as an opponent. McCloud had changed his spots many times in his life to fit the job situation he was in, while Rocco has never been anything else but what he is now. Small wonder that one can see the confrontation between them coming to full steam. This core element, and all the others mentioned and not mentioned here, help make "Key Largo" one of the great unsung classics of Humphrey Bogart AND Edward G. Robinson. Here's looking at you, tough guys.
- Apr 25, 2000