[Film Review] The Asphalt Jungle (1950)

Title: The Asphalt Jungle
Year: 1950
Country: USA
Language: English
Genre: Crime, Film-Noir
Director: John Huston
Ben Maddow
John Huston
W.R. Burnett
Sterling Hayden
Louis Calhern
Jean Hagen
Sam Jaffe
James Whitmore
John McIntire
Marc Lawrence
Barry Kelley
Marilyn Monroe
Anthony Caruso
Teresa Celli
Dorothy Tree
Brad Dexter
John Maxwell
Rating: 7.9/10

After two misadventures with Huston’s more recent films PRIZZI’S HONOR (1985) and THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING (1975), I turned to his earlier canons to find some redeemed compensation, THE ASPHALT JUNGLE, a Black & White film-noir, scrupulously delves into the ramifications of a bank stick-up in the 1930s depression period of America, which is executed by a slew of criminals whose ill-fated predestination will indubitably resonate after 60 years, since fortunately we haven’t been evolving much and its neo-realistic aesthetics is still sitting comfily in the appreciative zone.

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’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.


One thought on “[Film Review] The Asphalt Jungle (1950)

  1. Pingback: [Film Review] Appointment with Danger (1950) – Cinema Omnivore

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