This movie is built on the crass stereotyping of national, regional, and personal characteristics: all Germans are heal-clicking former Nazis; Communists on the surface are dedicated ideologists but really crave a life of Western decadence; American southerners (men) are right-wing imbeciles navigating the complexities of life on a few cherished prejudices; young American (southern) women are insatiable nymphomaniacs (is that redundant?); and James Cagney is a one-dimensional actor. Such an underpinning for a movie would not seem, at first glance, to offer much promise. But the one-dimensional acting style of Cagney, which ruined Love Me or Leave Me (the movie with Doris Day based on the life of Ruth Etting), is perfect for this manic-paced farce. For nearly the entire movie, Cagney unleashes a barrage of breathless monologues, simultaneously exhausting and amazing the viewer.
That the movie is a farce does not mean it lacks a serious side. The stereotypes are so rigid, and played so extravagantly, that it is hard to escape the conclusion that the movie is designed to outrage those insulted (especially southerners) and mock anyone who agrees with the stereotypes. Cagney himself is mocked by an MP who does a Cagney imitation in response to one of Cagney's imperious orders. On another level, the movie can be seen as a critique of censorship. In the Soviet Union, all film had to toe the Communist ideological line. If the same standard were applied to US movies by US censors, the result might well be something like One, Two, Three. And indeed, to ideological purists the world is as simple as one, two, three.