The Asphalt Jungle Reviews
A brilliant crime boss just released from prison has a wonderful scheme to steal $1,000,000. He recruits several hoodlums with solid credentials to help in the robbery; unfortunately, backstabbing and treachery is a misstep away in every direction for this group. At first, everything goes as planned; but when the plans begin to fall apart, can the team stick together?
"He doesn't have enough blood left in him to keep a chicken alive."
John Huston, director of The Maltese Falcon, The African Queen, The Treasure of Sierra Madre, The Man Who Would be King, Prizzi's Honor, Annie (1982), and Moulin Rouge (1952), delivers The Asphalt Jungle. The storyline for this picture is entertaining and unfolds in a chaotic but entertaining manner. The acting is very good and the cast includes Sterling Hayden, Louis Calhern, Jean Hagen, and James Whitmore.
"I made a mistake. Don't you ever make a mistake."
I DVR'd the Asphalt Jungle off Turner Classic Movies (TCM) during a John Huston marathon. I have been a fan of Huston's work and decided to give this a shot. The story contains an entertaining blend of unpredictable characters and solid action scenes. This isn't my favorite Huston picture, but this is definitely worth your time.
"Money makes me sweat."
For me, since I am oft more intrigued by the narrative arc than the comprehensive mise-en-scene a director concocts (at least in this present period), the film excels itself in founding its empathy on several well-depicted characters. Sterling Hayden, the first-billed star of the film, equivocally the leading man among the motley crew, is not the brain, but a trustworthy hooligan, suitably amplifying his simplistic kindheartedness by exposing himself to his girl friend (the moderately-used Jean Hagen) of his stroke of bad luck and his humble-but-never-realized dream (which Huston cleverly opts as the heart-rending culmination) under the veneer of his stalwart physique.
Sam Jaffe, who acquired his one and only Oscar nomination (the film altogether got 4 nominations including a BEST DIRECTOR for Huston) for the role of Doc, the constantly behind-the-wall mastermind, has another sort of fatalistic empathy through his non-violent, genteel policy which is simply the otherness for a perpetrator, he is a born leader, who welds a collection of gifted offenders into a real team, the only thing he misses it luck. Louis Calhern, the paymaster and the fence, ostensibly well-off, but bankrupted, is the major mis-step of the heist, Calhern‚(TM)s commonly understated performance finds the right place as he is juggling between his wife and his trophy mistress (a 24-year-old Monroe, whose striking sheen cannot be overlooked even in such a minor role).
The film is feasibly an agitprop of police department, although the coppers are neither over-beautified nor disparaging represented (unlike the present mockery trend), it emits a pertinent point-of-view of their functions and liabilities, Huston is the torchbearer of the American neorealism, and I hope this assertion can stand its ground.
A jewelry heist is formulated and sprung into action by an eccentric ex-con played by Sam Jaffe and among others ensnared in the mix is the ever dominating Sterling Hayden. Although he shares the spotlight with Jaffe and Louis Calhern, he shines as bright as ever. Hayden went on to start the crucial chain of events that we saw unfold in Dr. Strangelove and he also gave potent performances in such classics as The Godfather and The Killing. He is a giant leading actor and therefore dominating the screen seems to come easy for the actor. Many of his scenes are him showing his strength but also confessing his depth (he speaks of retiring to his deceased father's land, full of horses and mainly peace).
The story is expertly led by Huston in the director's seat and it packs a punch that not only leaves a mark but it is also strategically placed. This is not a shoot 'em up crime thriller, it has a brain and offers a distinct human side to crime noir. I absolutely love the final closing scenes, they really captivate the art of the time and the brilliance of the entire film concept. The creativity, overall details, and especially the final frames make this a landmark film. It is not a moment too soon, it feels right on time as it paces towards the finish line. 5/5
***Updated after 2nd viewing on 8/29/12***