The Great Guy
Steven Hellerstedt | 09/20/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Jimmy Cagney didn't always play fast-talking, two-fisted bad guys in the 1930s. In THE GREAT GUY Cagney plays a fast-talking, two-fisted good guy who, due to a suspicious accident to the Boss, finds himself temporarily in charge of the Bureau of Weight and Measures for what appears to be New York City. Although the Boss warns him to `keep your head on your shoulders and your fists in your pocket' (love the dialogue in this one) Cagney is too much the crusader to heed such reasonable advice. When not running down short-shifting green grocers and heavy-thumbed butchers Cagney sets his sights on a juicy, and dangerous, nest of corrupt politicos.
Cagney is engaged to pretty young Mae Clarke, who rather conveniently is secretary to a city leader, a benign philanthropist by day and, Cagney hunches, a graft raking extortionist by night. The easily digested plot hinges on how Clarke responds to Cagney's accusations against her employer. Although Cagney doesn't push a grapefruit in Clarke's face this time around, they do engage in a series of pre-nuptial lovers' spats that add a nice bit of texture to an otherwise pleasantly unambitious movie. THE GREAT GUY is the type of movie that invites us to ask, while practically insisting we not worry about, such things as - Will Cagney compromise his integrity, by easing up on the grafting philanthropist, to save his relationship with the winsome Clarke? Will Clarke ever realize what a truly great guy this pugnacious, temporary manager of the Bureau of Weights and Measures really is?
There's something winning about a movie that entertains without breaking much of a sweat. Even Cagney, who could be a live wire when working with important Grade-A material, is relatively subdued. The good cast and bouncy action - especially Cagney - trim THE GREAT GUY with enough interesting bits of business to make palatable - downright tasty, as a matter of fact - a plot that is overly familiar and predictable.