The Asphalt Jungle (1950)

Rating: **
Review Date: 10/8/11
Director: John Huston
Cast: Sterling Hayden, Sam Jaffe, Louis Calhern, Marilyn Monroe

A bleak a gritty tale of corruption and vice. "Doc" Riedenschneider (Sam Jaffe) is a mastermind criminal who just got out of jail and is looking for someone to finance his next big caper. A rich lawyer named Emmerich (Louis Calhern) decides to back him, and hires a safe-cracker, a driver, and muscle-bound hooligan named Dix (Sterling Hayden) to get the job done. The heist goes off flawlessly, but seemingly insignificant randomness during the getaway slowly unravels the lives of everyone involved. Ultimately, everyone falls victim to their own particular vices in one of the most nihilistic noir films I've seen. No one is even remotely likable in this dirty world of urban decay, and only a naïve and dim-witted Marilyn Monroe casts any sort of light and warmth. Her delivery is oddly animated and sharply contrasts with everyone else's heavy-handed dourness. She also gets the best line in the film: "Haven't you bothered me enough, you big banana head?" I don't even know what that means, but it suits her character perfectly. Overall, the acting is good and the cinematography is appropriately dark and moody. Huston's direction is strong, but the pacing is extremely sluggish and the audio is sparse, which makes the film a bit of a chore to sit through.