After inadvertently leaving clues behind at a railroad heist, career criminal Cody Jarrett becomes the target of the feds who are hot on his trail. In an attempt to escape serious charges, Jarret deliberately confesses to a small crime in order to provide himself an alibi for the railroad heist. In prison he befriends Vic Pardo, who is secretly an undercover agent sent in to infiltrate Jarret's gang. Pardo who is really agent Hang Fallon, takes on the persona of a man desperate to work with Jarret and after saving his life from an attempted prison hit, he becomes Jarret's right-hand man. When the men successfully bust out of prison, Fallon races against time to alert his fellow agents of Jarret's next heist. Raoul Walsh's White Heat is one of the few films which completely lives up to its reputation. This is the quintessential crime drama featuring lots of action, suspense, double-crosses and of course a truly iconic villain in Cody Jarrett. While there is no denying that James Cagney's portrayal is legendary, I would argue that Raoul Walsh and his screenwriters really never get the credit they deserve in creating one of the most interesting examinations of the criminal mind committed to celluloid. Cody Jarrett is such a fantastic psychopath who just oozes instability in every scene. He is a man who has little regard for his partners in crime, showing absolutely no loyalty to anyone if they stand in his way. The one exception to this being his mother, who Cody Jarrett loves unconditionally. Jarrett is mentally unstable, with his mother being the guiding force throughout his entire life and his main inspiration for wanting to "make it too the top". The other thing that continually stands out for me no matter how many times I watch White Heat is the pacing. This has got to be one of the best paced films in existence with every scene feeling 100% necessary and driving the narrative at nearly breakneck speed. One could even argue that the pacing is what makes the iconic ending so powerful and dynamic. It's the escalation of Jarrett's instability which finally explodes in the climax, making it one of the most iconic endings of all time. Raoul Walsh's White Heat is a fantastic crime drama that deserves every bit of praise thrown its way.
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