A taunt good-vs.-evil face-off between the ever-more-fatalistic Bogart and mobster Edward G. Robinson. Ex-GI Frank McCloud (Bogart) stops off to visit war-widow friend Nora Temple (Lauren Bacall) and her invalid father-in-law (Lionel Barrymore) in a Key Largo hotel only to find out it’s now managed by gangster Johnny Rocco (Robinson), ill with small-man bitterness.
Good guys and bad are then hemmed in by a hurricane and director John Huston manufactures enough claustrophobia to last a week. The war-weary McCloud doesn’t want a fight, but Rocco’s arrogance recharges his righteousness. So do Nora’s looks. Nora and McCloud are resigned to the period’s honor-first mantra: “Your head says one thing, your whole life says another. Your head always loses.” In effect, you do what you must.