Movie Review- Angels with Dirty Faces
This is one of the very few movies which has jostled me out of my reverie. This and 4 months, 3 weeks and 2 days ( originally 4 luni, 3 săptămâni și 2 zile).
I watched Angels with Dirty faces soon after Casablanca, since this is also considered one of the major works of Curtiz in late 1930s.
I didn’t have the slightest idea what this movie is going to be. The movie starts with two kids, street robbers so to say and one of them gets caught while robbing a train. The plot then revolves around how their life changes, intersects again and finally ends with one surpassing the other. ( I’ll give myself credit for not including any spoilers here atleast!!)
I haven’t seen any other movie of James Cagney but this has to be one of the best! The arrogance, the innocence, the flirt, the plotter, the loyal friend, the humorous guide, the fun person- so many expressions shown by one man in a 1.5 hour movie is commendable. Rocky Sullivan ( Cagney) is a name etched in the minds of anyone who has watched this flick. The one basketball game was a treat to watch! It was probably the quickest and funniest scenes of the movie.
Pat O’Brien (Jerry Connolly) acted well but I don’t have any other movie of his to compare his performance with. Bogart and Ann Sheridan hardly have anything to do in the movie. They did their job as was expected of them. That’s all I can say!
Soapy and other kids did a fantastic job!
The scene were Father Jerry comes into a club to see the brats group and the good kids group gambling, it shows anger on an otherwise calm and serene face. When he pushes aside another mocking man, that was a high moment for Pat O’Brien- something that wasn’t expected and that shocks us for a second. Everything that he does post that was expected.
The unexpected, as expected from Curtiz, comes in the climax. You know it is going to happen and yet we sit fingers crossed hoping for a miracle to happen.
Curtiz likes to play with shadows I believe. He does that in Casablanca, where Bogart is shown withdrawing money out of a safe and only his well defined shadow is seen. Similarly here, we see a well defined shadow of Cagney going behind the screen for execution.
Showing only his hands ensures an ambiguity. We wonder what the cause of his act is- if he changed his mind for his friend, a last parting gift for him, or was he really seeking mercy, or did he do it for the kids – we never know.
Still, when Connolly drops a tear, we don’t expect the last dialogue from him-” Let’s say a parting word for the boy who couldn’t run as fast as I could”. that’s where the dirty face shows. The man achieved the motive of showing Bad gets you bad to the kids. Yet, he goes a step ahead to prove he won the batter between good and evil. That’s probably the second high moment for Pat O’Brien.
As I mentioned before, the movie leaves you shaken. But you feel good for having watched it!