Stark sets, simple dialogue and a straight-forward plot help Bogart dominate this crime film. Every gesture, from his face to his hands, and the way he walks, and every word he says, makes an even bigger impression against this minimalistic backdrop.
The sets at the start are immensely black with long shadows in the dead of night. But as the film progresses and light is let in, through city and through country, things open up. It's a gritty world of immigrants and the unfortunate fear of people with names like Mendoza and Olga.
The character actors do memorable things with their lines and there is a more than effective use of flashbacks in the plot.
The music of a Romantic European orchestra, all heavy with strings and blaring brass, once again adds to a Bogart movie.
This may all seem rather tame and simple-minded to viewers raised on more recent crime films. But I find these old black-and-white pictures by Bogie and Cagney to be perfect in their own way.
Their "unrealistic realism" is less cluttered, more like art, but not pretentiously so. And they show an understanding of human nature, especially violence and the allure of the gun, which later films lack.
More than anything, this film has the greatest screen presence of them all, the dominating force that was Humphrey Bogart.