Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Little Caesar (4 Stars)

"Little Caesar" tells the story of the rise and fall of a gangster in Prohibition era Chicago. When the film was made people thought it was about Al Capone, but that's a very tenuous link. In 1930 Al Capone was America's most famous gangster, and "Little Caesar" was the first gangster film, so that was the only reason for the connection. The personality of Caesar Enrico Bandella, aka Rico, aka Little Caesar, is so different to that of Al Capone that it would be a waste of time to list all the differences.

Two small-time robbers, Rico and Joe, meet in a diner and discuss the future. They both want to move to Chicago, but for different reasons. Rico wants to become a big gangster, Joe wants to become a dancer. When they arrive in Chicago Rico presents himself to a crime boss called Sam Vettori, where he's given the nickname Little Caesar, while Joe becomes a dancer in the club of another criminal called Arnie Lorch. Sam makes his money from robbery, while Arnie uses his club as the legal front for a hidden speakeasy.

Joe falls in love with his fellow dancer Olga and tries his best to go straight, but Rico pressures him to work for his gang. Joe is asked to stand guard when Sam's gang robs Arnie's club. During the robbery Rico shoots and kills the police commissioner, who was dining at Arnie's. Despite criticism from other crime lords, this propels Rico's career. First he takes over Sam's gang, then Arnie's club. Joe is now working for Rico and has no way to escape.

While the film is exciting, I feel that it moves too fast. 79 minutes isn't enough for a rise and fall film. It would have profited from a two hour running time. The story of the relationship between the two men, Rico and Joe, can barely be called a subplot. It's the film's main story. Rico's feelings for his old friend are the reason for his ultimate downfall, together with his pride. This led to the film being criticised for portraying a man with latent homosexual tendencies, an absolute sin in 1930's America. That's stretching it. Just because a man doesn't have a girlfriend and is friends with other men, it doesn't make him a homosexual. That would make me a homosexual as well. The sexual repression of America made people see and fear homosexuality everywhere.

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