Not so Tough – Machine Gun Kelly (1958)

Charles Bronson stars in this average little gangster film by Roger Corman and while not breaking any new ground, does a good job with it.  The whole opening montage is fantastic with Kelly robbing a bank with a couple of partners.  There is some great jazzy music set to the frenetic pace of the escape and sets the tone for the film.  Sadly after the great opening, things slow down and settle into predictability and paint-by-numbers.  And actually, that is all fine.  Bronson does a great job as he always does and it is interesting to watch a film with ol’ Stoneface in his younger days.  When one thinks of Bronson it is of the older and more grizzled vet from the 1970s and 1980s, meting out vengeance, or justice, wherever he goes.

One aspect that could have been and maybe should have been explored a bit more was Kelly’s fear of death.  Comparing it to his tough guy bravado would have been a great character study and while it was featured in the film, very little of it was touched upon.  Bronson, while not the most accomplished actor at this phase in his career, could have done some great work with it if given a chance, but as previously stated, did a fine job with what he was given.  Susan Cabot who starred opposite him in the film was alluring and sexy as his moll and gave just as good a performance as he did.  She was at times almost better than he was in the film and made the movie just a little bit better than it would have been without her.

Corman of course, does his usual good directing of this little B picture, much like he always does.  This movie is better than most as it does not have any need for special effects thus raising the bar higher than some of his other films.  Because of that he was able to focus more upon the story, which again, while not wholly original, was decent.  This could have been a powerhouse film, as it had the basic structure to make it so, but stronger writing and a stronger cast would have helped immensely.  As it is, the film is entertaining and a nice little time-killer.

3.5 out of 5

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