While visiting a run-down hotel in the Florida Keys, run by a widow of a an old war buddy and her crippled father-in-law, Frank McCloud slowly decides to take on local gangster Johnny Rocco and his gang, who have taken over the hotel. Slowly, surely, Frank waits for his moment.
Amongst the famed Bogart-Bacall period from the late forties, that vivid, sublimely erotic set of quasi-noirs that have all become classics, Key Largo is relatively the least impressive (emphasis on the “relatively”) and familiar. This is because it is far less concerned with the frothy interplay between the two magnetic stars, being more concerned with the man-to-man confrontation between Bogart’s familiar rasping loner, an ex-GI, and Edward G. Robinson’s salty lowlife gangster. It is less sexy than The Big Sleep or To Have And Have Not, a more heady thriller built around a crackling conflict.
Based on a Broadway flop written by Maxwell Anderson, John Huston update the story to a post-war America, a land battle-toughened and awash with illicit opportunity. It is a fork in the road for the nascent superpower marked by the slimy opportunism of Rocco or the tough deep-seated moralism of McCloud. Bacall, naturally, plays his love interest, but she is less of a sparky rival, and their relationship has none of the electricity of before.
Huston, though, is at home with the material, coating the lurid throes of his tale in the sweaty atmosphere of the high tropics, under the impending menace of a hurricane. There’s great work with a storm-lashed hotel where the family are held hostage. It feels more formulaic than its fellow entries in the Bogart canon, but with its redoubtable performances and tightly-structured storytelling remains just as gripping.
Perfeclty tense atmosphere and performances, with the sparks flying between Bogart and Bacall.