The Criminal Code

Watch The Criminal Code

  • Passed
  • 1931
  • 1 hr 37 min
  • 6.9  (1,351)

The Criminal Code is a classic American film, released in 1930, directed by Howard Hawks and starring Walter Huston, Phillips Holmes, and Constance Cummings. The film takes place in the fictional state of Montana, where a young lawyer named Martin Brady (Holmes) is appointed as the new warden of a prison. Brady is a compassionate and idealistic man, hoping to institute reforms to rehabilitate the criminals and reduce their rates of recidivism. However, as he begins to learn more about the harsh realities of prison life and the corrupt and abusive practices of the guards and inmates, he becomes increasingly disillusioned with his job and the criminal justice system as a whole.

One of the central themes of The Criminal Code is the tension between justice and mercy, and the struggle to balance punishment with rehabilitation. The film introduces several interesting and complex characters, including the tough but fair Captain Gleason (Huston), who serves as Brady's mentor and guide through the prison's labyrinthine rules and unwritten codes of conduct.

As Brady attempts to implement his reforms, he meets a number of inmates with compelling backstories and motivations, including the hardened con Max Carlson (Boris Karloff) and the young and naive Joe Berg (Andy Devine), who is unjustly accused of a crime he did not commit.

Another major thread in the film is the question of moral responsibility, as Brady begins to realize that the walls of the prison are not airtight and that the criminal underworld still has its influence on the outside world. He is forced to confront his own ethical biases and flaws and grapple with the messy, ambiguous realities of human behavior.

The Criminal Code is notable for its realistic and gritty portrayal of prison life, which was quite controversial at the time of its release. The film features a number of intense and emotionally charged scenes, and the script is well-crafted and nuanced, with a strong emphasis on character development and dialogue.

Overall, The Criminal Code is a compelling and thought-provoking drama that raises important questions about punishment, rehabilitation, and the nature of justice. The performances are top-notch, especially Huston as the wise but gruff elder statesman and Holmes as the conflicted and tormented protagonist. If you're a fan of classic Hollywood films or are interested in exploring the history of American cinema, this is definitely a must-see.

The Criminal Code
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  • Release Date
  • MPAA Rating
  • Runtime
    1 hr 37 min
  • Language
  • IMDB Rating
    6.9  (1,351)