High Sierra is something of a throwback to the gangster pictures of the prohibition era; purely and simply an action story that’s partially salvaged by the fine performances of Humphrey Bogart and Ida Lupino. They actually carry a film that is weighted down by too much extraneous story and production matter.
Throwback nature of the yarn is evident in the semi-glorification of Bogart’s gangster character. Story depicts him as a country boy who went wrong with John Dillinger’s mob, but still retaining a soft spot for green fields and trees, a crippled girl and a stray dog.
The screenplay [from a novel by W.R. Burnett] brings in too many side issues that clutter up the picture. There’s no logical reason why the migrant family of Henry Travers and Elizabeth Risdon, with granddaughter Joan Leslie, was included, except as an effort to pad out the yarn in showing Bogart to be a nice guy at heart.
If anything, the film now suffers from slowness, Raoul Walsh’s direction evidently being unable to overcome the screenplay plotting.