Man, The Onion doesn't like anything! Just cuz a guy's getting old. Cagney apparently was 50 when he made this, portraying an alpha gangster who's good to his mother. A bit like the mother in The Sopranos, but a little more directly involved in the criminal enterprise. And even though technology's getting more sophisticated on the cops' end of things, the criminals are still gettin 'er done. But then... well, I'll try not to give too much away, but there's plenty of plot to go around in this one, to be sure. Anyway, Cagney ends up going to prison for a couple years, and the cops arrange for one of their own to pose as a career criminal and be a cellmate with Cagney! There's just gotta be an easier way. This leads to complications that pay off later in the movie. Then there's some more 'new' technology, another job, a double-cross, and of course the big finalé, the climax of which apparently explains the white heat of the title.
This must've been incendiary at the time, no pun intended, but dated now, especially the lack of the swears. Easy to see how this could've influenced today's gangster films, particularly Michael Mann's various works, prominently featuring criminal and gangster 'managers' supplying all the good crimes with big payoffs. The opening robbery is reminiscent of Butch Cassidy. There were a few details that didn't pay off later which was kind of nice. Why should everything have a future payoff? In a movie, anyway? Okay, I'll tell you what one of them was. The lip-reader cellmate is sitting next to Edmond O'Brien's stoolie during their respective prison visits. The stoolie covers his mouth so the lip-reader can't tell he's telling his "wife" that they're planning a phony prison break... I know, I know, but I won't even get into the plot holes you can drive a gas truck through. You know why? It's out of respect. Sometimes you gotta respect a film's plot holes. Not always, like with that LAST film I reviewed! Sheesh. I still can't get over that trial.
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan