James Cagney returns to the genre that gave him his break in White Heat in which he plays a ruthless and brutal gangster and leader of the Cody Jarrett criminal gang. Having robbed a train and leaving a trail of bodies in his wake, Jarrett (Cagney) hands himself in to the law for a lesser charge in order to avoid the gas chamber. To catch him for the train robbery the cops send Hank Fallon (Edmond O’Brien) undercover into the prison to attempt to befriend the fiend and gain vital information and perhaps a confession. When Jarrett breaks out though he takes Fallon with him and the cops begin their chase.
A few years ago White Heat was voted the forth best gangster film of all time by the AFI behind The Godfather I and II and Goodfellas. It was for this reason and my recent discovery of James Cagney that I sought the film out and wasn’t disappointed. The film has certainly aged and isn’t as violent or gruesome as its modern counterparts but a fantastic story and fine acting make it one of the best gangster flicks ever in my opinion.