(Review originally written at 7 August 2006)

This is one real classic and great heist movie. It has all the typical genre elements present and a great, oh so important, dark and gritty atmosphere. This is crime/film-noir at its very best!

"The Asphalt Jungle" is a quite typical heist movie with all the formulaic characters and elements present in it. I however really like the approach of this movie on its story. It provides us a view in the dark violent criminal underworld of the '50's and it chooses to not really have a main character. Instead the story focuses on all of the major players that are involved in the heist; before, during and after. It makes every plot line and character just as engaging and interesting as the other. It makes "The Asphalt Jungle" a consistently powerful crime/film-noir that is filled with all the necessary elements, such as backstabbing characters and honor amongst thieves. Combine that with a perfectly dark and gritty atmosphere and the end result is one of the most consistent and engaging heist movies ever created, if not the best of all time.

The story is told really well. Instead of having only fast paced action sequences, the movie maintains a steady pace during its entire running time. It doesn't make one moment slow or the other fast, it instead is a very consistent movie that thanks to its steady pace doesn't ever have any boring or too slow moments, like often is the case with movies from the same period. Also the fact that it focuses on more than one storyline or character, makes the movie even more interesting to follow. Due to this, every event and character in the movie becomes just as interesting and engaging as the other. The formulaic screenplay is made really interesting and powerful thanks to John Huston his refreshing directing and take on the story. He makes the story look more exciting, tense and engaging than it was on paper. It makes the character introductions, the heist itself and its aftermath work all extremely well and the one just as powerful and interesting as the other. It's certainly one of the most consistently great movies I have ever seen.

Like you would expect from a genre movie like this, the atmosphere plays a very important role for the movie. This particular movie does have a great atmosphere. It's deliciously dark and gritty and has some great cinematography and use of light, done by Harold Rosson, who was one of the very best cinematographers of his period. The musical score by Miklós Rózsa is also wonderful, though its unfortunately not often enough present in the movie.

Film-noir's always are very straight-forward and have a certain feel of realism. The movie is not only realistic due to it's atmosphere but it's also mainly very realistic, due to its character treatment, dialog and well cast actors.

The acting in this movie is great. The actors in this movie are by no means some of the greatest that ever lived but they all suite their roles extremely well. Especially Sterling Hayden as Dix Handley is fantastic. Very raw and tough. Also really well cast were Sam Jaffe, Louis Calhern and Jean Hagen. Marilyn Monroe is also really good in this movie. She doesn't play a very large role but her presence is big and impressive enough to leave a lasting impression.

Impressive, realistic, gritty heist movie in typical film-noir style brilliantly directed by John Huston. An absolute must-see for the fans of the genre.


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About Frank Veenstra

Watches movies...writes about them...and that's it for now.
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