For the time in which it was made, Shake Hands with the Devil packed quite a punch. If time has made the extremities of Devil's plot and characterizations seem dated, and if it is not quite accurate as history, it still is an involving look at the horrible conflict that has bedeviled Ireland for so many years. Devil's biggest problem is the naïve look it takes at the complicated Irish-English conflict -- but that won't bother many audiences, who will enjoy the heightened melodrama that this creates. The character if Sean Lenihan is also problematic. He's intended to represent the dangerous, vengeful aspect of the IRA, someone who is blindly zealous and whose deep rooted anger keeps him from seeing the larger vision. And James Cagney plays him with all the fiery brilliance that the part requires. And yet, because Cagney is Cagney, the audience disproportionately likes him -- even as he becomes increasingly mad. It's not Cagney's fault -- his work is top notch. The part is a tricky one to write, and the team of writers couldn't get it quite right. Cagney is joined by a superb cast that includes excellent work from the gorgeous Dana Wynter, Glynis Johns and Michael Redgrave. Only Don Murray is a letdown, giving a by-the-numbers performance that is indicated rather than true and committed.
by Craig Butler review