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A landmark gangster movie and a subversive take on the American Dream, Howard Hawks’ masterpiece boasts a brilliant Paul Muni as brutish, ruthlessly ambitious Tony Camonte.


Dir Howard Hawks, Richard Rosson
Prod Howard Hawks, Howard Hughes
Scr Ben Hecht
With Paul Muni, Ann Dvorak, Boris Karloff
UK Distribution Universal Pictures International UK & Eire

Howard Hawks’ fast, feisty, darkly funny gangster classic is also a subversive account of a ruthlessly ambitious punk’s pursuit of the American Dream. In charting the bloody career of boorish but street-smart hoodlum Tony Camonte (Muni, superb), Hawks and screenwriter Ben Hecht drew on the lives (and deaths) of Al Capone and other notorious figures – the Borgias included. So Tony, treacherously seducing his boss’s mistress, also harbours decidedly deeper feelings for his sister Cesca (Dvorak), who is herself after Tony’s sidekick Rinaldo (Raft). Meanwhile, Camonte’s other passion is power; he’ll risk anything to wrest it from the city’s crime lords. Taking the mobster movie to its moral and aesthetic limits, Hawks gleefully serves up virtuoso violence and carnage, sly innuendo, visual gags (‘X’ marks murders galore), and delicious verbal comedy demonstrating Camonte’s linguistic shortcomings. The mix of subtly imaginative details and fiery dramatic power makes for a masterpiece.

Geoff Andrew

Additional information

Restored in 4K by NBCUniversal StudioPost, thanks to the Cinémathèque Québécoise as well as MTI Film in Los Angeles for providing additional film services.

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