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Underworld opens with a series of title cards setting its mood, telling of "a great city in the dead of night...streets lonely...moon clouded...buildings as empty as the cave dwellings of a forgotten age." Suddenly an explosion shatters the façade of a bank building, and the title cards announce that crime kingpin Bull Weed (George Bancroft) has "closed another account." Bull emerges from the wreckage carrying his swag, but while making his getaway, he spots a derelict (Clive Brook) wandering past, a potential witness, despite his apparent inebriated state. Instead of… More
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 83%

Critic Reviews from Rotten Tomatoes

"There's a wallop right through and yet the film retains romance, clicks not a little on comedy and even whitewashes itself with a 'moral.'"
‑ Variety Staff, Variety
"The first full-fledged gangster movie and still an effective mood piece."
‑ Dave Kehr, Chicago Reader
"von Sternberg's visual style and the art direction by German émigré Hans Dreier elevate Underworld into something more than a run-of-the-mill crime picture"
‑ James Kendrick, Q Network Film Desk
"Josef von Sternberg's Underworld is a fascinating early cornerstone of both the director's worldview and the gangster genre."
‑ Fernando F. Croce, Slant Magazine
"Largely through the competent work of Messrs. Bancroft and Brook, Mr. von Sternberg gives a better idea of his powers as a director."
‑ Mordaunt Hall, New York Times
"The film's influence on subsequent gangster films is indisputable."
‑ , TV Guide's Movie Guide
"Sternberg's direction is both classical and modern, with an expressive approach to storytelling and his distinctive visual style already apparent..."
‑ Sean Axmaker, Parallax View
"A great silent gangster film which had considerable influence on the classic crime dramas of the early 1930s."
‑ , Film4
"The film radiates total confidence in its own means and methods, and the themes are wholly Sternberg's."
‑ , Time Out
"Gripping, superbly told tale of crooks and their girlfriends."
‑ Michael E. Grost, Classic Film and Television
"The real world was not yet ready for a full-blown gangster drama in 1927."
‑ Paul Brenner, Filmcritic.com
"Considered to be the first modern gangster film, where the criminals are the antihero heroes."
‑ Dennis Schwartz, Ozus' World Movie Reviews
More reviews for Underworld on Rotten Tomatoes

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