At a Florida Keys hotel, Frank (Humphrey Bogart) is given a cold reception by strangers. He comes across men who are unfriendly and tense. He intends to visit James, the father of a deceased friend from the army and the widowed wife Nora. But it turns out that the hotel is under the control of gangsters. And soon, Frank, James, and Nora are hostages.
Many hostile conversations are engaged. Cynicism is evident as the lead gangster Rocco (Edward G. Robinson) recounts his early days to them – How he bought politicians and how he was dissatisfied with the government. There is a strong mood of mistrust amidst all the characters. Tensions escalate in many moments, even among the minor ones like Rocco’s henchmen who are given some personalities of their own. Rocco has an alcoholic lady friend named Gaye (Claire Trevor) who gives a slow song number. Disrespect is given to the elderly James, particularly by Rocco. And psychological tactics are employed to outlast the dangerous predicament.
Lauren Bacal as Nora is attractive in her mysticism. Bogart is calm and dependable as Frank while Edward Robinson is peremptorily in his instructions. Key Largo is a suspenseful film about people of many different personalities grouped in a tight situation. Directed by John Huston and with a screenplay by Richard Brooks and John Huston, it’s loathing, tough, unsentimental at times and builds apprehension.