Sunday, February 28, 2010

Key Largo. B+


John Huston's best work often revolves around ambiguity amidst chaos. Maybe that's what's lacking in 'Key Largo,' a very solid but surprisingly shallow crime movie. There's so much time to explore the film's characters in the claustrophobic setting of a small hotel surrounded by a vicious hurricane. Unfortunately the movie never goes in that direction. Instead it focuses on a situation and how people react to it. The situation here is a holdup. The bad guy is a notorious gangster named Johnny Rocco, played by Edward G. Robinson. The hero is Humphrey Bogart, who plays Frank McCloud, former WWII soldier. Of course there's a leading lady, too. Her name is Nora (Lauren Bacall) and she helps run her father-in-law's (Lionel Barrymore) hotel. You'd expect Bogart to lead the show in a movie like this, but this was actually one of his less memorable roles. The real thief of the movie was Edward Robinson, who's portrait of a depraved villain was outstanding. And Bacall, known for her famous chemistry with Bogart, was excellent, too. The storm finally dies down and Rocco makes Frank take him and his men out on a boat. The fog has set and there are some shots of the boat that looked strikingly similar to the opening scenes in 'Shutter Island.' Though Scorsese's film was very inspired, I'm guessing this similarity was just a coincidence. 'Key Largo' is a very good entertainment, thoroughly ejoyable from start to finish. The fact that it isn't a masterpiece should not come as a disappointment. Few films can achieve the status of the classics, and that simply makes plenty of room for the really solid, if not great, pieces of cinema. 'Key Largo' is a part of that.

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