Rates with the best of the G-men pictures. Joseph Spruin-Calleia’s screen debut is auspicious. Curtailed to Joseph Calleia, this legit recruit does a consummate job as the arch-menace into whose confidence the G-man has wormed himself.
Action [from a story by J. Walter Rubin and Wells Root] opens fast and tense on how a prison break is plotted and successfully achieved. It develops that it’s all part of the scheme to get Sonny (Calleia) out of confinement on a relatively minor rap in order that Chester Morris (pseudo-convict, and co-conspirator with Calleia in the break) might ferret out the Purple Gang’s retreat. That’s the first indication that Morris is a Fed.
Lionel Barrymore as a dipsomaniac medico who is sympathetic with the mobsters so long as he’s kept in constant liquid saturations gives a memorable performance as a sometimes lovable, ever professionally competent but tragic figure of a surgeon who might have been great if not for the booze.
Jean Arthur’s introduction to the scene is plausible and her playing further cinches it. Paul Kelly as the G chief and the rest of the support more than make their contributions stand up.