James Cagney, in older years, retakes his archetypal gangster role, though this time, he invests it with greater psychological connotations as the unbalanced, mother-fixated hoodlum, Cody Jarrett. As opposed to the usual Depression-era ambient, Cagney, in the crowning performances of his career, plays the ageing gangleader Jarrett, who is caught in a spiral of tension as a relentless undercover agent (Edmond O'Brien) infiltrates his gang with a view to putting him inside, while his faithless wife and his rival (outstandingly played by Virginia Mayo and Steve Cochran respectively) plot his as well as his mother's deaths. Margaret Wycherley is fine in the supporting role of Jarrett's mother, the object of his obsessive Oedipal devotion. What is most endearing about this film is that, for a movie that was made in 1949, it works with still the same narrative machinery of contemporary thrillers exploring the same themes. This proves that it hasn't dated at all, producing often mesmerisingly suspenseful results. It can be compared, with favour, to the best and latest offerings of the gangster-thriller genre. One scene in the middle (a hand-to-hand combat between T-Man Edmond O'Brien and a hoodlum) has the privilige of being one of the earliest martial arts displays in the history of Hollywood -- an ancestor of the fight scenes of Seagal, Van Damme, Snipes, et al.