Key Largo (1948) Review

Director: John Huston

Genre(s): Crime, Drama, Thriller

Runtime: 100 minutes

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

IMDb Page

The crime-thriller Key Largo would be the fourth and final onscreen collaboration between husband-wife acting duo Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. Set in Key Largo, Florida, a small group of gangsters led by Johnny Rocco (Edward G. Robinson) hold the visitors to an ocean-side hotel, including World War II veteran Frank McCloud (Humphrey Bogart), hostage in the middle of a hurricane. Another captive is Nora Temple (Lauren Bacall), who was made a widow by the 1939-1945 war and who sets her eyes on McCloud.

Key Largo is based on a 1939 play with the same name, and sometimes it shows. Most of the action takes place in the Hotel Largo and this sometimes causes the movie to verge on talkiness. Still, the film is blessed with a sweaty atmosphere and the script is pretty good, too. It never really feels claustrophobic in a bad sort of way, and the final shootout gives the flick a chance to breathe.

This feature is usually classified as a film-noir, and it has a mercifully straightforward plot for a motion picture done in that style. I’m frequently turned off by the twisty-turny stories that noirs often employ, but Key Largo is refreshingly simple. Plus, it’s just fun to see two of the greatest icons of black-and-white gangster movies, Humphrey Bogart and Edward G. Robinson, square off against each other in such a well-made flick.

Key Largo is a likeable mobster-noir drama with several swell performances. It’s not an action picture (though the final moments of gunplay do satisfy), but it still manages to keep the audience engaged. In a way, it feels like a reverse version of The Petrified Forest (1936). In that film, Bogie plays a criminal who holds a Western American diner hostage, and in this movie, Bogart is a prisoner to a gangster takeover of a building orchestrated by a different actor.

My rating is 7 outta 10.

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