It's not necessary to say much about the plot: it's about a psycho gang leader (Cagney) whose gang is infiltrated by FBI inside man Vic Pardo (the great supporting actor Edmond O'Brien). Complications ensure as the gang gets ready for that big final heist. The part of the story that most remember is that Cagney is very dependent on mom (Brit Margaret Wycherley) to an uncomfortably incestuous level. You see, he's her favorite child and she's part of his gang. The cinematic result was banned in Finland. It remains creepy today.
A large part of the film takes place inside prison, and it's full of archetypal images that Frank Darabont must have seen before making The Shawshank Redemption. The influence of this film is widespread, and it lives up to expectations in the riveting second half. In the end, Walsh, a great director of fast-paced films (along with a script by Goff and Roberts, a team that later went on to write for "Charlie's Angels"), manages to make us sympathize a bit with Cagney even while we root for the FBI. Not just that, but the suspense grows even though the ending is pre-ordained because of that famous clip. White Heat is quite more than that famous finale.
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