Paul Muni plays Tony Camonte, a low-level mafia hood who explains, “In this business there’s only one law you gotta follow to keep out of trouble: Do it first, do it yourself, and keep on doing it.” The “it” in question is murder, and Tony does plenty as he shoots his way to the top of Chicago’s underworld.
You know the story beats. The remake retains and improves on them. But Muni’s hulking size and grappler’s ears grant him immediate authenticity. When he struts through the film, sizing up everyone and everything, his sociopathic detachment chills.
Sure, the comedy bits involving Vince Barnett as Muni’s dim-witted secretary fall flat. And Ann Dvorak’s wide-eyed emoting pales next to Muni’s ice-cold mania. But I can forgive these missteps.
I’m less forgiving of the Universal Studios Blu-ray transfer. Perhaps its inherit in the source, but many scenes exhibit a soft focus blur that resembles an upscale. Disappointing.