The first gangster film on the list, and what a film! The lingo! The voices! The faces! The incredible nicknames! Killer Peppi, Scabby, Diamond Pete, Kid Bean, and of course Little Caesar himself: together they rule the underworld.
The plot revolves around the titular character (Robinson) – an ambitious young bastard who through hubris and ruthlessness works his way up the ranks of a gang and eventually takes over their operation.
Through his quest for power, he mows down semi-innocent people and screws over quite a few of his friends (despite his motto becoming “Loyalty & Friendship”). Our hearts go out to poor Tony the Getaway Driver. (Who is referred to as a big baby. Baby Driver..?)
Meanwhile, his old friend Joe (Fairbanks) tries to move away from gangster life and instead works as a dancer with his partner and girlfriend Olga (Farrell).
Little Caesar (aka Rico) will have none of it though, and continuously pressures Joe to return to gangster life. He even ropes him into assisting a robbery at his place of work. Joe, despite wanting very little to do with the newfound crime lord still has some feelings for his old friend, and he tries to warn him when he overhears another criminal plotting his assassination.
In the end, Rico’s hubris and self worship turn out to be his fatal flaws (who could have seen that coming?) and the whole operation goes down. But at least Joe and Olga become stars, which is great.
This is a quick paced gangster film with drive by shootings, very good costumes, amazing lingo, lots of drama and great performances. And now we can’t wait to rewatch Bugsy Malone (1976) once we get to the seventies.