White Heat (1949) 4.33/5 (3)


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Rating: The Good – 87.6
Genre: Crime
Duration: 114  mins
Director: Raoul Walsh
Stars: James Cagney, Virginia Mayo, Edmond O’Brien

“If I turned my back long enough for Big Ed to put a hole in it, there’d be a hole in it.” Raoul Walsh was behind the camera but this firecracker of a film is all about a 50 year old James Cagney proving that he was only reaching his peak. Cagney is insatiable as he eats up the scenery in one of the most charismatic and intimidating of all screen performances. He plays wanted felon Cody Jarrett, the leader of a ruff-neck gang of thieves who only cares about one thing: his mother, an iron willed woman who is as devious and vicious as he is. He ain’t a nice guy, in fact he’s outright mean but you cannot help but weigh in behind him as he and his gang stay one step ahead of the police. Only the introduction of Edmond O’Brien’s character as the police’s inside man keeps the audience on the moral high ground and the dynamic he strikes up with Cagney is perfect. Margaret Wycherly is great as Ma Jarrett and Virginia Mayo scores well as Jarrett’s wife but all fall in the shadow of Cagney’s whirlwind performance which inevitably builds towards one of the most explosive endings in movie history. “Made it, Ma! Top of the World!”

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