Big Mac is dying, and before he croaks he’s going to plan one last job for old time’s sake. This kind of caper isn’t fit for today’s generation - all soda-jerkers, jitterbugs and 14 karat saps. It’s a muscle job. It needs authority and a willingness to knock off any drip who gets cute. It’s the kind of job for Roy Earle, an old-school gangster’s gangster who has just been released from a long stretch in the icebox.
High Sierra is a valedictory for the Warner Bros. tommy-gun epoch. Released less than a year before Pearl Harbor, it trumpeted a changing of the guard. The stetson-wearing punk-rockers of the 30s, mashing grapefruit halves in the face of society, were gone forever. It would soon be a time for antiseptic war films; less than noble instincts would have to be filtered through the grimy prism of film noir.