Director: William Keighley
Genre(s): Action, Crime, Drama
Runtime: 85 minutes
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Hollywood gangster films had proven mighty profitable in the early 1930s, but there was an increasing backlash against them, especially when the Production Code started being enforced. The solution: make a mob movie from the perspective of lawmen, with the criminals as the unquestionable bad guys. That is precisely was ‘G’ Men is. Smart alecky lawyer James “Brick” Davis (James Cagney) joins the FBI to avenge the murder of his good friend, Eddie Buchanan (Regis Toomey), arriving in the Bureau just in time to take on a major Midwestern crime spree. This, right here, is one of the best of the 1930s organized crime flicks.
The cut of ‘G’ Men now available starts with an interesting prologue added in 1949 that shows the film being shown to new government agent recruits. This movie is, more or less, FBI propaganda, but it would be a mistake to dismiss the picture for this. The star of the show is, of course, James Cagney, who’s amazing, as expected. He may be on the side of the law now, but he’s still the gun-toting, tough-talking wise-ass we all love.
The movie benefits from some ripped-from-the-headlines moments that serve as the major set-pieces. There is a scene obviously inspired by the 1933 Kansas City Massacre, and there’s a very good shootout sequence that is lifted from the 1934 Little Bohemia Lodge gunfight. It’s remarkably action-packed by 1935 standards, although the final action scene isn’t quite as thrilling as the nighttime hunting lodge firefight that preceded it (though it’s still cool).
When it’s all said and done, ‘G’ Men is an excellent crime-actioner that fans of retro tough guy cinema will adore. Yes, there is some light romance in it, but Cagney makes it watchable. If you can get past the occasionally somewhat speechy join-or-support-the-FBI stuff, it’s a generally fast-paced romp through gangland.
My rating is 8 outta 10.