After three years in Sing Sing, Danny is keen on finding a lawful occupation but discovers his camera is just another racket. The finicky protagonist slugs his way through women and bourbon until his past and present are double-exposed in an orgy of violence. Lloyd Bacon directs like Cagney talks, quick and to the point, wasting little time with character development or transitions.
Danny Kean is fresh outta prison and quits his crooked gang to go straight. Jerry the Mug is his old nemesis and the one for whom Danny took six slugs from a police revolver and three years from the State for. Cpt. Nolan is the veteran cop who provided the lead and soon by pure chance (as only Hollywood can attest) he unknowingly falls for the Cpt.’s daughter. Danny is a photojournalist with a scummy rag and befriends his editor. Convolutions of the brain, heart and sexual organs soon prevail which lead Danny to his nearly fatal headline. See Danny punch two women (and knocks one out cold!) and pour bourbon down the cleavage of another. See Danny snap a secretive photo of his gal-pal while she undresses. See Danny destroy a traumatized man’s reputation by portrait. See Danny betray the trust of Cpt. Nola as he sneaks a camera into his old haunt to photograph an execution. Interestingly, the fiction here is a truth down to the very photo used in the film: this plot point mirrors the scandalous 1928 Ruth Snyder electrocution and its strident headline! See Danny chase down Jerry the Mug and become involved in a bloody shootout while Jerry’s wife and two kids witness the gruesome end...of which Danny snaps a photo because, you know, it’s his job. Come to think of it, Danny has only changed his occupation, not himself; and that’s what should really count. It’s Cagney so his Cheshire grin, sly wink and snappy wordplay are endearing but here his character is a total prick.
So Danny suffers some slight consequence to all of his shenanigans but his future father-in-law is keeping the revolver nice and clean. Just in case.
Final Grade: (B-)