Howard Hawks's 1932 masterpiece is a dark, brutal, exhilaratingly violent film, blending comedy and horror in a manner that suggests Chico Marx let loose with a live machine gun. Paul Muni gives his best performance as the simian hood Tony Camonte, whose one redeeming virtue is that he loves his sister (Ann Dvorak, of the limpid eyes and jutting limbs). Hawks reverses the usual structure of the gangster tragedy: Camonte doesn't hubristically challenge his world so much as go with the flow of its natural chaos and violence. The supporting actors—Osgood Perkins, Karen Morely, Boris Karloff, Vince Barnett, George Raft (flipping his coin)—seem to have been chosen for their geometric qualities; the film is a symphony of body shapes and gestures, functioning dynamically as well as dramatically.
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