The third of the so-called “holy trilogy” of early 30′s gangster films, joining William Wellman’s Public Enemy and Howard Hawks’ Scarface (the cream of the crop in my book), Little Caesar makes two classic LeRoy joints (the other: I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang) that I’ve found perfectly solid…and thoroughly underwhelming, especially when viewed through the prism of their reputations. Needless to say, I also think it’s the weakest of the trinity. Little Caesar is the story of the hyper-ambitious, Al Capone-esque Rico (Edward G. Robinson), a small time thug with balls of steel who shoots through the ranks of mobster power like a rocket, thanks to utter fearlessness and a cold, power-hungry way of doing business…and just as quickly finds himself facing a return to the gutter when his bloated sense of self-importance threatens his hold over the gangster world. I was initially concerned that Robinson, a staple in 40′s noirs like Double Indemnity and The Woman in the Window, would be miscast as Rico (though he did play a gang leader in Key Largo), but I shouldn’t have worried: one of the era’s best actors, Robinson seamlessly takes to the role, imbuing it with the requisite fire and pugnacity (plus, it sort of launched him into stardom!). However, the editing isn’t as successful: I had issues with the narrative structure of LeRoy’s Fugitive, and similar problems exist here. The snappy 79-minute runtime isn’t an inherent problem for the genre, but here, the proceedings feel rushed: Rico’s rise and fall—or more precisely, his rags-to-riches-to-rags arc—is unconvincing, his meteoric rise difficult to swallow in the tight world of the mob. Excellent shadowy camerawork and solid acting around Robinson keep Little Caesar enjoyable, but it could have been a far stronger picture if LeRoy had taken his time to flesh things out.