Edge of the City - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Edge of the City Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ December 30, 2014
In "Edge of the City," Axel(John Cassavetes) moves from city to city. In New York City, he finds work as a stevedore on the docks by dropping Charles Malik's(Jack Warden) name to the boss. In return, Malik requests a piece of Axel's wages. By comparison, Tommy(Sidney Poitier) befriends Axel and gives him some leads on an apartment in Harlem. Tommy even goes so far as to invite Axel to join his crew.

"Edge of the City" is a movie about racism. How it handles the topic so well is by hardly mentioning it and instead finding creative ways to provoke the less enlightened audience of 1957. First is by introducing Sidney Poitier off-screen, so the audience hears his voice before seeing him for the first time. Then, Poitier is paired first with Kathleen Maguire, who is not black, before showing him with Ruby Dee. And you have to remember that this was, as a character put it, at a time when it is smart to be patriotic.

Otherwise, Sidney Poitier, John Cassavetes and Jack Warden all play off each other well in this movie that favors actions over words. But even though "Edge of the City" starts decently enough, and makes its point well in the end, the dramatic tension does fall off somewhat in the second act. And Axel has one too many secrets for comfort.
June 20, 2014
You can completely see what this movie is going for and where its going from the start. Every character beside the main on (axel north) its one dimensional and its a little paint by numbers. Sidney Poitier is charismatic as ever and John Cassavetes is good but the story is nothing special.
½ January 5, 2014
Overlooked 50's movie highlights the two great actors, Poitier and Cassevetes--Interesting story, good performances!!
March 4, 2013
a bit too preachy 4 me
September 16, 2012
Edge of the City is an exceptional film. It is about two New York City longshoremen Axel Nordmann, an Army deserter and Tommy Tyler, an easy-going freight car loader whose growing friendship is threatened by Charles Malik, a notably repellent punk. John Cassavetes and Sidney Poitier give amazing performances. The screenplay is well written. Martin Ritt did a great job directing this movie. I enjoyed watching this motion picture because of the drama. Edge of the City is a must see.
April 5, 2012
A interesting study of two men who are friends and work on the railroad yards. simple enough, but one is white(Cassavettes)and one is African American(Poitier) and it's the 1950s. They get along and he meets Poitier's family, but things get ugly when Poitier is killed on the job, and Cassavettes know the deal. A dillemma is at hand, to tell or not to tell. One of the best movies out there.
July 2, 2011
But He Still Goes to Prison, Right?

I think Sidney Poitier made a career out of being an Approachable Black Man. He was just perfect in [i]Guess Who's Coming to Dinner[/i]. And I don't mean he was perfectly cast. I mean he was a perfect human being, because it had to be apparent that the problem people could have with him was that he was black. He was charming, if kind of unpleasant, in [i]Lilies of the Field[/i]. And so forth. I mean, that was just what he did--be someone White America could like even though he was black. You had to respect him before you could respect the characters he played, and that's no less true here. His character is whimsical. Silly. A bit on the grandiose side more often than not. But he's still just a really nice guy you can't help liking, because he needs to be in order for it to be apparent that the issues with him have to do with race, not with any of the other possible sources of conflict.

Axel Nordmann (John Cassavetes) is living in New York under an assumed name. For reasons we do not yet know, he feels unable to communicate with his parents, although he calls them regularly so they know he's alive. One day, he goes to work in a freight yard under the auspices of Charles Malik (Jack Warden). Malik is all mobbed up, and Axel must give him part of his pay every week for the privilege of having a job at all, and Axel gets given the worst of the work and the most ill treatment. Tommy Tyler (Poitier), who leads one of the other work gangs, treats him well, and eventually, he makes it possible for Axel to transfer to his gang. He brings Axel home to meet his wife, Lucy (Ruby Dee), and he introduces Axel to Ellen Wilson (Kathleen Maguire), a friend of Lucy's. Axel and Lucy hit it off pretty well. But there's a dark secret or two hanging over Axel's head yet, and the secrets and Malik's attitude toward Tommy threaten to tear Axel's life apart.

Okay, let's get the homoerotic thing out of the way right now, shall we? Because wow. There was some chemistry between Cassavetes (who went on to direct films I don't like) and Poitier. Arguably more than there was between Cassavetes and Maguire. Though there was also quite a bit between Poitier and Dee--and, come to that, Cassavetes and Dee. No, it didn't strike me that Axel would rather run off with Tommy than be in a relationship with Ellen, and that isn't even just because it was 1957. It's also because Tommy was married, and because that marriage was obviously happy. And he did seem to like Ellen well enough, even if there wasn't the same fire between them. It is also true that I feel very few movies present friendships between two men as they are, or anyway as they can be. This could well be the kind of closeness where, yeah, they'll spend an awful lot of time together but are also madly in love with women. I've seen those in real men. It is also, however, possible that one or both is bi, and they might have been together in different circumstances.

This movie is kind of trying to be [i]Guess Who's On the Waterfront[/i]. They talk some about unions, and there is an implication that the unions may have a few dealings with organized crime themselves. It's certainly true that you pretty much have to pay your way into a job there, if Axel's experience is any indication. Though I think probably that, had he mentioned Tommy and not Malik at the front office, that would not have been the case. There is also a reaction shot of Malik which indicates that he is frankly stunned that anyone would choose to have what I guess we were still calling a Negro as their supervisor if they were white. The idea that Tommy would just be an easier man to work for because he isn't so blessed angry all the time didn't enter into it. He was black, and it's quite obvious that Malik can't get beyond the fact that, well, Sidney Poitier is black.

Honestly, I found myself liking Tommy way better than I liked Axel, and that's not even just that Axel had a dumb name. I mean, you'd think if he were running around under an assumed name, he'd fix that. But I guess he was used to it. Anyway, one of the things Tommy does is pretend to himself, and one of the ways he befriends Axel is by sharing his daydreams. By letting Axel into them. He tells Axel that he owns some huge swath of Manhattan, but not to tell anyone, because it's a secret. And rather than assuming that he's simply nuts, Axel recognizes that Tommy is having fun and senses in Axel someone who will have fun along with him. This is a desirable kind of friend to have, if you are the kind of person who goes on imaginary sprees, and it's clear that Tommy knows that. He's also had the good luck to find Lucy, who is willing to play along with his games as well. To have a friend and a lover who will both agree that you own large swaths of Manhattan is to be rich indeed.
½ June 3, 2011
Not bad, but a bit heavy-handed and dated. At times it seemed like it was trying to be another "On The Waterfront."
½ April 26, 2011
Hard-edged classic coming in the wake of On the Waterfront. The story follows a young man who has never been a leader - always taking a back seat and wanting someone to come to his aide. The young man is played to great perfection by John Cassavetes. He is running, but we aren't quite sure from what, and he gets a job as a dockworker. There he meets two supervisors - the bullying Charles (Jack Warden) and the much nicer Tommy (Sidney Poitier). Poitier is absolutely commanding on the screen and Warden is delectably rotten as a corrupt union man. Edge of the City moves away from the pretenses of On the Waterfront to provide an exceptional statement of the human condition. An absolute must for Cassavetes and Poitier fans.
½ March 12, 2011
Felt like a stepping stone for part of American History X and in that regard the relationship between Cassavetes and Poitier was wonderfully strong
March 12, 2011
A movie that has all the right elements but loses it all in implementation. There are a few moments when the film really shines but not enough to make the rest of the movie work.
½ September 6, 2010
They kinda let it go at the end. Nice buildup of the friendship between the men. Little motivation for how Cassevetes comes to the decision to stand up for what is right - he's a deserter so his credibility would be shot on cross. Not to mention how the legal system would go for him defending a black man.
½ December 5, 2009
Director Martin Ritt's debut from 1957 stars Sidney Poitier, John Cassavetes, and Ruby Dee. Tommy (Poitier) and Axel (Cassavetes) are friends and railyard workers; one is abused regularly by a racist coworker, the other has a secret that keeps him from doing the right thing when Tommy needs him. Great performances all around. Descriptions as a poor man's On the Waterfront aren't far off. Fellow film freaks will recognize Ritt as the auteur who directed Mr. Paul Newman in Long Hot Summer, Hud, and Hombre, as well as other classics like the Molly Maguires and Norma Rae.
½ September 3, 2009
a masterpiece of the American Film noir however it is not very well acclaimed . the 28 years old John Cassavetes was terrific !
August 24, 2009
Adequate social (racism) drama from the later fifties. Clear-cut story which gives an enlightening insight into certain social relations at the time. It must be noted, however, that it seems to be trying just about a bit too hard to be politically correct and perhaps even utopian. Authoritarian assholes are white, whereas nice, warm-hearted, sensible people are black. Furthermore, I wonder how realistic it was for a black man back in 1957 to be in such a senior position on the workfloor and to have a wife who is said to have given up on her career because of her marriage. And would the police really bother that much about who was responsible for the death of a black worker? Also, I think this movie wastes too much time on the display of friendships, causing some other important aspects of the plot (Axel's relationship with his parents, the solving of the murder case) to become somewhat snowed under. The final scene is spectacular, but not too realistic (why not just inform the police and leave it at that?).
August 18, 2009
good acting. good performances. simple story. i guess solid is a good way to describe it.
½ August 15, 2009
Sadly little-seen drama of the NYC rail yards, in which John Cassavetes, as a perennial misfit, and Sidney Poitier, as a genial foreman, form a warm friendship that redeems the former, until tragedy strikes, spurred by another, malicious foreman, played by Jack Warden. Exactly what happens would constitute a spoiler, but suffice to say the final quarter of the film is quite painful, until the shocking, almost cathartic finale. Unfortunately, I missed most of the middle third, but what I did see showed a haunting, stark drama of brotherhood, whose tone is best typified by its British title, A MAN IS TEN FEET TALL. A classic deserving of rehabilitation.
½ October 26, 2008
Lots of violence. I like a movie where everyone dies in the end.
January 28, 2008
I think John Cassavetes best movie role. He makes a great duo with Sidney Poitier
January 21, 2008
A powerful film from the Blacklist Era as the director has suffered. Strong characters are found through this film, all taped in Jersey City.
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