The film follows Sue Riley (Young) and Matt Nolan (Cagney) as they are caught in the middle of a cab company’s warfare for turf. Matt is an independent cab driver who thinks they should use violence to fight off the Consolidated Cab Drivers, but Sue thinks differently since her father's death was directly linked to the growing hostilities. Tensions rise but peace is surprisingly met until Matt’s brother is murdered by Buck Gerald, the head of Consolidated.
Matt is a hot-tempered guy who reasons he must kill Buck to avenge his brother’s death.
This is the film that gave the misattributed quote of “You dirty rat!” to Cagney which was actually, “Come out and take it, you dirty, yellow-bellied rat, or I'll give it to you through the door!”
This film shows the following tropes:
- Belligerent Sexual Tension: This slap◊ screams BST.Matt: Ah, I wouldn't go for that dame if she was the last woman on Earth and I just got out of the navy.
- Big Damn Kiss: While watching a film, Sue remarksGee, isn’t he great at making love?Matt: Think he’s so hot? Get a load of this!
- Corporate Warfare: The Consolidated Cab Company tries to fight over a corporate take over.
- Dance-Off: Sue and Matt compete in a foxtrot contest. And a pre-stardom George Raft can be seen as the guy who gets punched by Matt for gloating a little too much.
- Fanservice: Sue undresses for no reason other than eye-candy.
- Hair-Trigger Temper: Sue’s issue with Matt: he constantly fights with anyone that wrongs him slightly. This embarrasses her to no end. His temper causes his brother’s death.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Matt. He’s a typical tough guy (with touches of misogyny to our modern eyes), but he genuinely loves Sue and wants to be better.
- Manly Tears: When his brother dies, Matt bawls his eyes out.
- Revenge Before Reason: Matt is out for Buck’s blood and doesn’t care that he’ll destroy his life and Sue’s if he commits this murder.
- Show Within a Show: Matt and Sue go to the movies and watch a Narmy film.
- The Taxi: Tangentially related to taxis as the conflict comes from a corporation’s dirty tactics in taking over independent cabbies spots.
- Vehicle Title: Taxi!
- Vigilante Execution: Matt’s plan to kill Buck since he’s eluded to police for several months after the murder of his brother.
- Would Hit a Girl: Matt has saved $100 for his brother’s tombstone. As it turns out, Sue gave the money to Buck’s girl so he could escape from the country. The reason being that if Buck is out of the country, Matt can’t kill him and become a convicted murderer.
- Working-Class Hero: Most of Cagney’s ‘30s films showed him as such.
- Yiddish as a Second Language: Coming from the Lower East Side of Manhattan in the early 20th century, it was possible to pick up many languages, including this. Matt (and really Cagney) shows off his fluent Yiddish skills to an Irish cop who’s mystified by a Jewish man’s requests.Cop: Nolan, what part of Ireland did your folks come from?Matt: [laughs and then with a Yiddish accent] Delancey Street, thank you.