Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Gang Bullets (1938)

A few weeks ago in my review of Don't Look in the Basement, I talked about how one good idea does not rescue a film if the rest of it is mediocre.

This is another such movie.  In fact I would say the 'one good idea' here is better than in the other film.  It's sadly let down by many aspects of the execution, however, not to mention some socio-political sentiments I found distasteful.

Those socio-political sentiments begin the film, when we get a text scrawl lamenting the ineffectual laws of American society, and in particular the laws that require presumption of innocence.  The law is a game of chance, it tells us, where the rules favour the criminal.

The film (which is also known as The Crooked Way) will return to this theme several times, with one of the characters explaining that those laws had made sense when a tyrant could murder a citizen for no reason, but that they had lost their meaning in modern society.  Keep in mind that this is 1938, and Hitler and Stalin are both in power, when thinking about how true that might be.

But enough of that: what of the plot?  Well basically a police chief gets fed up of being outwitted by mob boss Big Bill, so he stuffs him on a train out of town.  The film fails to explain why Bill couldn't just come back once he gets off the train, but as it happens he decides he likes the new town he is in well enough.

As you might imagine, the DA and cops of this new burg aren't real pleased to get someone else's trouble dumped on them, but there doesn't seem to be much they can do about it.  Big Bill and his lawyers run rings around them on every front, and soon the press is baying for them to be fired and printing accusations of corruption from an anonymous source.

The film's one good idea is in how they finally catch Big Bill.  I know it's good, because ten minutes into the film I thought "I'd get this guy by doing X", and lo and behold, that was their solution :)

Alas, like I said, even if we ignore the awkward political attitudes, the film's execution is not good.  The acting is stilted, and the script ... well to be fair the writer probably hacked it out in a matter of days, but it surely shows it.

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