Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Asphalt Jungle. A-

The acclaimed 1955 French production 'Rififi' drew much inspiration from John Huston's underated 'The Asphalt Jungle.' Now here is a movie that has been ignored for the most part, at least in comparison to a film like 'Rififi.' But the truth is it's almost as good Huston's greatest acheivments, 'The Maltese Falcon' and 'Treasure on the Sierra Madre.' And those two are often cited as some of the greatest movies ever made (as well as personal favorites of mine). So it's pretty obvious that I really liked 'The Asphalt Jungle,' which is a film noir about a group of men planning a heist, going through with the plan, and then the terrible aftermath where everything goes wrong. It's fairly basic material handled to perfection by Huston. I loved the movie because of the equal focus it gives on the vast array of characters, all of whom play a significant part in the story. There's no central player, which is both a strength and a flaw. It's a strength because, as I said, it allows more time for the other characters. It's a flaw because it doesn't allow anyone to be explored in depth. The film is entirely plot driven and the one dimensional characters might be a reason this one isn't as esteemed as Huston's other work. Just about everyone in the movie is either shady or completely treacherous. There's a corrupt cop, even a corrupt lawyer who's a part of a major double crossing (not a spoiler, as we find this out early on). Yet since there aren't any 'good guys' in the film I didn't hate the 'bad guys' as much as I usually would. It's told from their pespecrive and though we don't root for them, we at least sort of understand their ambition.

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