Not long after he fled Nazi Germany rather than produce films for Hitler, Fritz Lang made his American debut with this powerful drama that it made clear that mob violence was not confined to his homeland. At a time when lynching was still a grim fact of life in America, Fury tackled this social evil head-on; even if MGM seems overly cautious in making both the mob and their victim white, the film's unflinching willingness to look dead-on at the ugly side of the American character is as impressive (and troubling) today as it was in 1936. Spencer Tracy delivers a typically strong "everyman" performance as the wrongfully accused Joe Wilson, and he doesn't shrink from Joe's less pleasant side in the second and third act, while Sylvia Sidney is genuinely affecting as his tormented fiancée. As Kirby and a band of local rabble trap Joe in his jail cell and then set the building alight, Lang takes the average folks of the American heartland, the sort of people that Frank Capra's populist visions were made of, and shows that a gruesome thread of hatred can be found inside them, waiting for the opportunity to come out. Sadly, this message may remain as pertinent today as it was when Fury first hit screens.
by Mark Deming review