Updated version of the 1942 This Gun for Hire comes off as a crackling melodrama. Marking James Cagney’s first pitch as a director and A.C. Lyles’ initial full producer chore, film packs enough gutsy action.
Cagney socks over his helming in expected style from one who has specialized in hardboiled characters, and gives parts plenty of meaning. Pair of unknowns take over the two top roles, Robert Ivers in the original Alan Ladd role and Georgann Johnson (with two eyes showing) the Veronica Lake, both doing yoeman service and handling themselves expertly. The screenplay, based on W.R. Burnett script [adapted from Graham Greene’s novel, A Gun for Sale], carries fast pace and holds up generally through final climax.
Yarn is motivated by the search of Ivers, a ruthless young gunman, for the man who has paid him off in stolen money for two murders. Police have the numbers of the bills, which makes it impossible for gun to pass them. He picks up Johnson, girl friend of William Bishop, detective in charge of the murders, and forcibly keeps her with him during the police hunt.