Dragnet Girl ★★★★

By 1934 silent films in America, excepting those made by Charlie Chaplin, were things of the past and had been for several years. This was not the case in Japan, as evidenced by Yasujiro Ozu’s silent Dragnet Girl. Such a lurid title might suggest a violent saga along the lines of Little Caesar (1931), The Public Enemy (1931) or Scarface (1932), all talkies by the way. Such is not the case. The criminals depicted in Dragnet Girl are mostly non-violent although they swagger around a lot. The anti-hero is Joji, the leader of a gang of small time crooks. His moll, the presumptive title character, is called Tokiko. Joji falls for a Nice Girl (Kazuko) whose Baby Brother (Hiroshi) wants to join Joji’s gang. Kazuko manages to save both Hiroshi and Joji from lives of crime rather effortlessly, leaving Tokiko to find herself another tough guy to latch on to. An imaginary 1934 American version of Dragnet Girl would have starred James Cagney (Joii), Sylvia Sidney (Kazuko), Billy Halop or Frankie Darrow (Hiroshi), and Glenda Farrell (Tokiko). Too bad it was never made!

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