victoryfish’s review published on Letterboxd:
Admittedly, my expectations were through the roof after watching Scarface (1932), but I was disappointed by I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang. It's an incredibly high-quality pre-code with another outstanding performance from Paul Muni, but it's also a grand social indictment couched in a story of open-ended nihilism, and that makes for a very depressing watch.
I don't know why I was dissatisfied with the end (strong as it is), and maybe the fact that I was dissatisfied proves how good the film really is, but I wish there had been more. I'm a baby, but I hate stories that leave me thinking "Oh well, yeah the world does suck," and this was one of those stories. I don't mind art that makes you suffer, but it's the tiny moral, intellectual, or personal victories that buoy the suffering for me. There's hardly anything like that in I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang. Everyone's either deluded, warped, disillusioned, broken, or all of the above, assuming they're not outright killed.
I'm still very impressed with Paul Muni and I want to see more of his work, but I thought he was better in Scarface, which seems to be a minority opinion. I guess I just wasn't in the mood for a downer tonight. At least now if I revisit I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang, I'll know what I'm in for, so maybe I'll like it more the second time around.