review for The Melvin Purvis: G-Man on AllMovie

The Melvin Purvis: G-Man (1974)
by Donald Guarisco review

Dan Curtis took a break from small-screen fright fare in 1974 with this diverting gangster flick. Like Curtis's best work, Melvin Purvis, G-Man is a model of storytelling economy. The tight script, co-penned by John Milius, infuses its compelling and carefully-layered plotline with plenty of period flavor and action. On a deeper level, it sets the standard gangster-flick approach on its ear by demythologizing the gangsters it portrays while transferring that mythic element to its portrayal of the title character. It also offers some withering commentary on how the gangster phenomenon of the Great Depression era was a reaction to the inequality between the haves and have-nots of American society. Dale Robertson brings a wry charm to his role as Purvis, making him a tough but fair (and sometimes surprisingly witty) lawman. On the gangster side, Harris Yulin delivers a nicely bombastic turn as Machine Gun Kelly and John Karlen and Matt Clark offer entertaining turns as members of his gang. However, the real scene-stealer on the bad-guy side is Margaret Blye, who is equal parts sexy and scheming as the brains behind Kelly's operation. She makes a fantastic gangster moll and also has an unexpectedly powerful and moving final scene in the film. Behind the camera, Curtis keeps the proceedings moving at a snappy pace and balances the action with some nice moments of drama. In short, Melvin Purvis, G-Man is a fine addition to gangster film mythology.