At the beginning of the movie Commissioner Hardy portrays the policemen as heroes, as the guardians of society. However as director John Huston narrates the preparations for a robbery and we sympathise with some of the thieves - especially with the lower class ones, losers with good feelings: We are told about their families and their dreams. In contrast to them the upper classes and some of the policemen are seen as individualistic and corrupt.
The movie reflects one of the main themes present in W.R.Burnett novels: The city, the asphalt jungle is a place of corruption and sin whereas the country is associated with purity, with the innocence that's lost in the city. Dix Handley - a country man who is forced to rob to escape from poverty - says: One of these days, I'll make a real killin' and then I'm gonna head for home. First thing I do when I get there is take a bath in the creek, and get this city dirt off me.
However the odds are against them. Our characters are doomed: What can you do against blind accidents? - Doc says. Things will turn out wrong, sometimes because of just bad luck, fate: Ciavelli is wounded when a gun is dropped. Doc is arrested after watching a young girl dance for too long when he was escaping.
When Dix - wounded after a gun incident - reaches his farm he dies with his dream because as Dr. Swanson says: He hasn't got enough blood left in him to keep a chicken alive.