The Hoodlum Saint is an interesting picture for William Powell fans, who get to see their hero play a part that is decidedly on the shady side. True, he does get redeemed by the end of the picture, but before that he spends much of the picture essentially bilking people to contribute to a fake charity that really only benefits himself and his cronies. Powell really seems to enjoy the chance for this change of pace part, and he's certainly got the talent to pull it off -- which is a good thing, because the screenplay keeps vacillating about both the story and the degree of goodness/badness within the main character, weakening the film's impact. The "finding religion" ending also doesn't quite wash; it's not that such a thing doesn't or couldn't happen, but it feels like it has been forced on to the story rather than happening naturally. Norman Taurog's direction is efficient and to the point, but also a trifle mechanical, and he's not able to help leading lady Esther Williams turn in more than a serviceable performance. Angela Lansbury comes off considerably better, but not as well as James Gleason and Frank McHugh. Ray June's cinematography is also a plus, and very helpful in creating atmosphere and sustaining dramatic tension.
by Craig Butler review