"They rule by the fear of their guns. They must be stopped by the power of your ballots." They refers to Bugs Fenner and other mobsters whose illicit rackets will be smashed to smithereens by undercover cop Johnny Blake. W... more »hen Warner Bros.' Depression-era gangster movies began to draw protests, the studio reinvigorated the genre with stories emphasizing law enforcers instead of lawbreakers. The swift, sturdy Bullets or Ballots reflects that, with Edward G. Robinson (as Blake) siding with the good guys for the first time in a gangland saga. Humphrey Bogart plays the short-fused Fenner. And Joan Blondell and Louise Beavers, in an unusual story element for the times, are thriving numbers operators whose grift is usurped by the mob. Director: William Keighley Starring: Edward G. Robinson, Joan Blondell, Barton MacLane, Humphrey Bogart, Frank McHugh« less
"Edward G. Robinson stars as a cop dedicated to getting rid of gangsters running rackets. When he is fired, he winds up taking a job with crime boss Barton MacLane, against the wishes of MacLane's number one man, Humphrey Bogart. MacLane wants Robinson to make his organization foolproof against the police. When they start having more interference from the police, people in the organization start questioning Robinson's trustworthiness, especially trigger-happy Bogart. This is a tough film, trying to address the problem of gangsters after Prohibition ended. Robinson, MacLane, and Joan Blondell as Robinson's disappointed girlfriend all turn in terrific performances, while Bogart contributes yet another of his bad guy jobs that he did so often until he became a star. I liked the perspective in this gangster film, which focused more on what the law was doing to end the problem, rather than simply giving us the story from only the gangsters' point of view. It's one of Warner Brother's least well known crime films, but it definitely deserves a look."
Average movie about post-Prohibition racketeering.
Doghouse King | Omaha, NE United States | 09/19/2001
(3 out of 5 stars)
"B or B is one of the movies made as a response to the alleged glorification of mobsters portrayed in others such as Public Enemy, Little Caesar and Scarface. This may be categorized with such films as I Am the Law, Manhattan Melodrama and G Men, where law enforcement officers and public officials were shown as the ones to be idolized.So it's preachy. Now, don't get me wrong; I'm not advocating gangsterism. But it's not skillfully done here. The points are driven home thru semi-documentary style narration or plot-halting on-screen explanations, rather than subtly through incident and dialogue. The story starts slow, with the main events not beginning until we are nearly a third of the way in. The direction is only adequate. And it badly needed music to propel things forward.The plot is hoary, but yet retains some interest. Robinson is fired from the force as part of the Commissioner's plan to get him in with the racketeers and break them from within, by tipping the police off as to their activities. But to really deal the rackets a blow Robinson must find out who the top guys are, men few ever see. And he must avoid the suspicions of the the trigger-happy Bogart and his allies.I love movies from this era: there are cool cars, fedoras and pinstripes, tough talk (though not enough), and a couple of nifty studio sets to be seen here. But there are also some really dated things about it, including a couple of fistfights only Alonzo Mourning and Larry Johnson could be proud of. What's more, the internal dynamics of the gang are never too believable, so suspense surrounding Robinson's tenuous situation is slight. And not to make light of what was a serious problem (and may still be in some locales), but there is something less than fearsome about Bogey running the milk and produce rackets. I mean, slicing a tomato and putting it in someone's bed just doesn't have the same brutal panache. (Kidding, I'm Kidding!)The ending is good but not to the degree it could've been: it's too small in scope and rather polite. Still, Robinson's performance after he is shot by Bogart elevates at least these closing scenes to near-great status.Finally, the movie misses opportunities for comment on how the law to do its job must sometimes be much like the lawbreakers. The moral complexity of Robinson's machinations (which directly lead to the murder of the kingpin, a man he grudgingly respected) is shown only by him crumpling a newspaper in the back of a cab. The paradox of injustices done in the name of justice is much better examined in a movie like Anthony Mann's noir great T-Men.Overall somewhat disappointing, but worth a Thursday night rental for fans of the genre or the cast.See also: The movies aforementioned; The Roaring 20's."
Don't Mess With Eddie Robinson!
Scott T. Rivers | Los Angeles, CA USA | 08/12/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
""Bullets or Ballots" (1936) features Edward G. Robinson in one of his best tough-guy roles as an undercover cop who infiltrates the New York rackets. This solid Warner crime drama also serves as a good vehicle for Humphrey Bogart as the untrusting, trigger-happy gangster. Not much action, per se, but director William Keighley keeps the pot boiling - climaxed by a memorable confrontation between Eddie G. and Bogey. The DVD includes a "Breakdowns of 1936" blooper reel with outtakes from "Bullets or Ballots" (watch for the brief moment in which Robinson needs technical support to handle a gun)."
Decent Gangster Film
Samantha Kelley | USA | 03/26/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Bullets or Ballots is a good gangster film set in the later 1930s which helps to explain their existence after Prohibition. Edward G. Robinson plays Johnny, a veteran of the police force whose unpopular methods leave him with nowhere to turn but to the gangsters who want him on their side. Humphrey Bogart plays a gangster who feels his position is being threatened and who serves to make trouble throughout the film. Joan Blondell plays Leigh, a pretty girl who is close friends with Johnny.
Robinson plays his decent character very well, but not particularly notably. Bogart's character is childish and headstrong and he plays the part well, a variation on his many gangster parts. Blondell is less pretty here than in her pre-code films and she dons many low cut dresses perhaps to compensate.
One of the most notable parts of this film is the incredibly sexy kiss between Bogart and Blondell."
William Keighley directed the film with a firm and fresh eff
Roberto Frangie | Leon, Gto. Mexico | 12/21/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Following his brutal portrayal in "The Petrified Forest," Bogart became a much more articulate and calculating killer in "Bullets or Ballots," a gangster thriller starring Edward G. Robinson as a crusading crime-buster, modeled after true-life cop Johnny Broderick, known as "the toughest cop on Broadway," who pretended to be thrown off the police force in order to infiltrate Bogart's gang and get the evidence to bring him to justice...
Bogart revealed no emotion whatever as he goes about his gun-happy chores of shooting a respected newspaperman as well as his partner-in-crime, Barton MacLane, in his characteristic double-cross...
The exciting finale found both Bogart and Robinson in a blazing showdown, an unusual ending for this period in film history, but one which Robinson had fought hard to retain...
William Keighley directed the film with a firm and fresh efficiency..."